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Rays deliver without Drew Rasmussen, beat Red Sox

Randy Arozarena leads a potent offense, and six relievers combine to limit Boston.
Rays second baseman Isaac Paredes (17) and left fielder Randy Arozarena (56) celebrate after Arozarena’s  three-run home run in the first inning against the Boston Red Sox Tuesday at Tropicana Field.
Rays second baseman Isaac Paredes (17) and left fielder Randy Arozarena (56) celebrate after Arozarena’s three-run home run in the first inning against the Boston Red Sox Tuesday at Tropicana Field. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]
Published Sep. 7, 2022|Updated Sep. 7, 2022

ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays were expecting that Drew Rasmussen, the reigning American League pitcher of the month, was due to deliver another strong start Tuesday against the Red Sox.

But those plans changed early Tuesday morning when Rasmussen’s wife, Stevie, went into labor a couple of days ahead of her scheduled date, and around 4:30 a.m. delivered their first child, a boy named Rhett.

Presents and parenting advice will be forthcoming from teammates. Tuesday, their gift was to step up in Rasmussen’s absence and, with a team-wide effort, produce an 8-4 victory.

Six relievers filled the pitching void, and Randy Arozarena’s three-run, first-inning homer — his 19th of the season — launched a big offensive night as the Rays rapped 13 hits.

“Want to shout out the Rasmussens, and obviously thankful that they’re healthy and happy and adjusting, I’m sure,” reliever Brooks Raley said. “Heard they had a heck of a night, and I’m very excited for them. I think the bullpen stepped up and did what we do. Obviously, Boston’s a very good team, and the runs early really helped kind of get guys settled in.”

The Rays improved to 76-58, moving to a season-high 18 games over .500 and winning for the seventh time in their last eight games, 18th in 23 and American League-best 22nd since the start of August. They moved within 4-1/2 games of the AL East-leading Yankees (who were rained out) and remained at least atop the three-team AL wild-card field, pending the Mariners’ late game.

Pitching coach Kyle Snyder and manager Kevin Cash missed the 1:30 a.m. calls from Rasmussen saying they were headed to the hospital, instead waking to a series of text messages updating the coaches on the situation. The plan was for Rasmussen to pitch Tuesday and, if necessary, for Stevie to have labor induced by Friday, with Rasmussen returning without missing a start.

“But things happen,” Snyder said.

A series of early-morning phone calls led to a plan to make it a bullpen day but also to call up Yonny Chirinos — who hasn’t pitched in the majors for more than two years due to injury — to be in reserve (and likely used Wednesday).

“It was a little bit of a mad dash (Tuesday),” Cash said. “The guys knew that it was going to be kind of a creative bullpen day and just appreciate the workload of everybody that we were able to get through the ballgame.”

JT Chargois opened and worked two innings, allowing Tristan Casas’ first big-league homer. Trade-deadline pickup Garrett Cleavinger worked two, and got the win. Rookie Calvin Faucher had the fifth. Raley threw up two more zeroes. Jalen Beeks worked the eighth, allowing a two-run homer to ex-Ray Tommy Pham. Jason Adam, in his team-high 60th appearance, finished.

“They know they’re a talented group. They stick together, and I feel like they do kind of feed off each other,” Cash said. “Some of those circumstances that aren’t ideal, they want to embrace and make the most of it — and they did (Tuesday).”

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Or as Harold Ramirez, who singled in two runs to mark his 28th birthday, said, “I really can’t explain how they are right now, because they are unbelievable. As soon as the bullpen’s coming in, we just feel a lot of confidence, like they are going to throw a lot of zeroes for us.”

Taking the early lead also helped, especially against crafty Sox lefty Rich Hill, who took advantage of the Fenway Park shadows on Aug. 27 to shut out the Rays for seven innings. Tuesday, he lasted only four, allowing five runs.

Arozarena led the way with the homer and two doubles, and a plan to hit No. 20 on Wednesday and post back-to-back 20-homer, 20-steal seasons. Christian Bethancourt and Yu Chang also homered. Manuel Margot and Francisco Mejia had key hits. Sizzling Yandy Diaz got them started.

“It was good, the offense, to kind of see it explode,” Arozarena said via team interpreter Manny Navarro. “Just like the pitching. The pitching has been doing really well. Everyone’s just doing their part. Everyone’s doing the little bit they can to help this team win.”

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