CHICAGO — The way veteran White Sox starter Lance Lynn was having his way with the Rays through the first six innings Saturday night — holding them without a hit, walking just one and striking out nine — there was little reason to expect things to change.
And certainly not the explosive way the Rays took control, scoring 10 runs in the seventh inning and extending their majors-best record to 23-5 with a stunning 12-3 victory.
“Look, (we have) a lot of confidence in the group and the way they’ve performed offensively to date, but I don’t think you could ever expect 10 runs,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “Lance Lynn was really, really good. Had that command going, had the fastball at the top of the zone, backdoor cutters, kind of gave us fits. And then something clicked.”
Actually, a lot clicked. Wander Franco led off the seventh against Lynn by homering to left on an 0-2 pitch. And by the time the inning ended, the Rays sent 14 men to the plate, rapped nine hits (including three homers) and scored 10 runs, turning what had been a 3-0 deficit into an inspiring win.
And maybe, as Randy Arozarena jokingly suggested, one the Rays had it planned this way all along.
“That was the strategy we came up with earlier in the game, was to not get any hits in the first six innings and then just explode in the seventh inning on,” said Arozarena, via team interpreter Manny Navarro.
The 10-run outburst, matching the second biggest for an inning in Rays franchise history (done four times, the last on July 29, 2021, against the Yankees), was the latest example of the explosiveness by the majors’ most prolific offense. (The Rays’ 186 runs are the most for a team through 28 games since 2000; and their plus-106 run differential is the second best in the modern era, trailing only the 1902 Pirates’ plus-112.)
“All we need is that one little spark at any moment in the game, and then we just catch fire from there,” Josh Lowe said. “That’s what we’re capable of. One minute, Lynn’s dominating through the game. But we know it’s just one pitch away from getting something sparked there. Wander did a great job getting it started and then everybody else just kept going.”
And it allowed them to turn what potentially was a frustrating loss for the record books into a historic win over a Sox team that has lost 10 straight, including six to the Rays.
Only one other team in the expansion era (since 1961) had been no-hit for at least six innings and broken it up by scoring more runs in that inning than the Rays’ 10, per Elias Sports and mlb.com’s Sarah Langs: The Blue Jays scored 11 in the seventh inning of a Sept. 11, 2021, game against the Orioles.
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Franco’s homer that erased the no-hitter alerts was clearly the breakthrough they needed, and they responded.
“There was a lot of motivation for us,” Arozarena said. “Going up to that inning we hadn’t gotten a hit, so it wasn’t just only the hit, it was the home run. That definitely got everyone a little bit more ‘activated,’ as we would say, and we were able to score a lot of runs and add a couple more home runs.”
The rally built from there.
Lowe, also down 0-2, singled with one out. Isaac Paredes, who had a career-high five RBIs on Thursday and the go-ahead homer in the ninth Friday, delivered a run-scoring double to left. After Taylor Walls walked to end Lynn’s night, pinch-hitter Manuel Margot reached on an infield dribbler that scored Paredes, who had alertly moved up to third, with the the tying run.
Then they piled on, scoring seven runs after two were out, batting around for the eighth time this season, with 14 coming to the plate.
After Walls was thrown out at the plate, the Rays took the lead when Siri laced a ball down the third-base line. Following a walk by pinch-hitter Yandy Diaz, Franco delivered again, capping a tremendous 11-pitch at-bat with a two-run single to make it 6-3. Arozarena crushed a 433-foot three-run home, and Lowe made it back-to-back blasts with a shot to right that made it 10-3.
When Francisco Mejia homered in the eighth and Arozarena went deep again in the ninth, the Rays matched their season high with five home runs.
All that offense made a winner out of Yonny Chirinos, who worked a solid 4 2/3 innings after a shaky opener outing from Calvin Faucher. At 23-5, the Rays have the second best 28-game mark in the majors in the expansion era (since 1961), trailing only the 24-4 1984 Tigers.
“It was a great game,” Arozarena said. “Their starting pitcher started off really well. We couldn’t connect to hit until the seventh inning, but we didn’t give up as a team. We continue to work, we continue to battle and that says a lot about this team. Everyone does their part. And that’s why we’ve started off the year like we did, because we all trust each other.”
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