ST. PETERSBURG — Back-to-back home runs in the second inning of Sunday’s 5-3 victory over the Rangers were symbolic of how the Rays might have rescued their season following a pair of seemingly cataclysmic injuries.
First, catcher Christian Bethancourt delivered a 420-foot blast against right-hander Glenn Otto to tie the score at 1. Bethancourt got a hug from centerfielder Jose Siri, the on-deck batter.
Two pitches later, Siri slammed a 392-foot homer to left for an advantage the Rays wouldn’t lose, and Bethancourt popped out of the dugout to hug his teammate. It was the fifth time this season the Rays hit back-to-back homers.
Bethancourt and Siri weren’t on anyone’s radar when the season began, but they have emerged as key figures in the Rays’ playoff push.
Bethancourt, a catcher with power-hitting pop, was acquired July 9 from the A’s for two minor-leaguers, a move made in response to the season-ending injury to Mike Zunino, a 2021 American League All-Star. Siri, a dazzling defensive player, was picked up Aug. 1 in a three-way trade with the Astros (his old team) and the Orioles. Siri especially was needed because franchise icon Kevin Kiermaier also was lost for the season.
“Give our front office some credit for recognizing little things to allow us to get those guys,” manager Kevin Cash said. “Christian has shown outstanding power for a catcher. You don’t see many guys like Jose that you can put in the same (defensive) category as (Kiermaier).”
Siri has hit safely in six of his last eight at-bats and homered for the first time since Aug. 30 at Miami. Bethancourt has hit seven of his 11 homers in the last 34 games (31 starts).
For Siri and left-hander Brooks Raley, the series against the Astros will carry special meaning. Siri was acquired from Houston about seven weeks ago, and Raley spent most of the last two seasons with the Astros.
“I have great memories with Houston,” Raley said. “It will be great to see some old friends, and hopefully we get a few wins. We desperately need those right now.”
Rasmussen looks for rebound
Monday night starter right-hander Drew Rasmussen allowed four runs in four innings during his last outing Wednesday at Toronto, one of the few blemishes on his record since the All-Star break.
“My execution with two strikes was really bad,” Rasmussen said. “My location wasn’t good. When you make mistakes against the Blue Jays, they will do some damage.”
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Rasmussen has made one career appearance against the Astros, and it was a good one — five scoreless innings on Sept. 29, 2021, when he retired the first 13 batters and needed just 54 pitches.
The Rays have won six consecutive series at home. They are 49-25 overall at Tropicana Field, including a 13-2 record in the last 15 home games, outscoring opponents 71-30 during that stretch. … Outfielder Randy Arozarena missed his second straight game and was “just a little sick,” according to Cash, who expects him back soon. … Rays radio broadcaster Dave Wills announced on social media that he suffered a “heart situation” last week in Toronto that resulted in him being taken by ambulance to Toronto General Hospital. Wills said it was diagnosed as supraventricular tachycardia, a rapid heartbeat caused when the normal electrical impulses of the heart are disrupted. Willis, back home, said he’s feeling better and hopes to return to broadcasts “very, very shortly.”
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