DETROIT — The Rays had to walk Friday before they could run.
Actually, they had to walk a franchise-record 13 times in their effort to score enough runs to beat the Tigers 5-3.
And to avoid a loss that had the potential to become a notable moment should their season end short of the postseason.
Consider that two batters into the eighth inning, 17 of the 36 Rays who came to the plate had reached base — 12 walks and five hits — and only two had scored as they trailed the Tigers by a run.
But Brandon Lowe, their hottest hitter since his mid-July return from the injured list, changed the score and the narrative, lacing a double to right that scored two and put the Rays up 4-3. They added another run when Isaac Paredes singled in Lowe.
And a night that looked to be one of frustration ended in celebration.
“I think it was big for the offense,” said reliever Colin Poche, who closed out the win in a tense ninth. “They were seeing a lot of pitches, getting on base, a lot of walks, and weren’t really able to capitalize early on.
“They did a really great job of not getting frustrated and sticking to it. You give us that many chances, that many free baserunners, eventually we’re going to take advantage of it. And they did, in a big way. That’s a big comeback win for us.”
The Rays ended the night with a third straight victory — their first such streak since winning five July 11-15 — and improved to 57-49 as they held on to one of the three American League wild-card spots.
Though the repeated missed opportunities mounted, including leaving the bases loaded in the second and fifth innings, manager Kevin Cash and several of the hitters said they saw the positive in the number of runners who got on base and the quality of at-bats that got them there.
“Very positive,” Cash said. “You guys watched, I see that we had guys on base. We had opportunities. But we can’t over-nitpick the offense. They’re trying to do everything they can, and they’re getting on base. So that was good. ...
“There was a lot of confidence throughout the night that we were so close. So I’m glad that it turned out the way it did.”
Plus, Cash noted the discipline the hitters showed in drawing the 13 walks — one more than their most in any previous game (12 in 11 innings in June 2010 at the Marlins) and two more than their most in regulation play.
“I think we’ve seen that, different parts of the season, where that discipline wasn’t there, and they’re trying to do too much,” he said. “We’ve seen it maybe on the bases at times, as well. So it was really good that there was a lot of discipline.”
Lowe saw it similarly: “I think that really shows we’re stepping in the right direction. No one’s out there trying to do too much or trying to hit a six-run home run. It seems like we’re out there taking our at-bats. We’re taking our team at-bats and we’re letting the numbers kind of take care of itself.”
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After Roman Quinn and Taylor Walls (who had three free passes) walked to open the eighth off Joe Jimenez, Lowe, who popped out with the bases loaded in the second, came through with the biggest hit.
It continued his torrid streak since returning from the injured list on July 16. He’s now hitting .350 (21-for-60) over his past 15 games, with multiple hits in four of his last five.
“I know he was frustrated after the first one with the bases loaded against (Tigers starter Bryan) Garcia, but he’s going to get you more times than not when he has some guys on base,” Cash said. “So he does look really good.”
There was more to the win.
Corey Kluber worked another six solid innings, giving up three runs in the first two, then retiring 12 in a row and 13 of his last 14. Randy Arozarena made a running and sliding catch near the right field line to save a run. Walls made his usual assortment of dazzling plays. Poche let two on the in the ninth and, with some guidance from just-reinstated catcher Francisco Mejia, took a breath and got the final out.
“We’re in the home stretch,” Lowe said. “Every win’s a big win.”
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