ST. PETERSBURG — They were the unlikeliest of saviors. Rene Pinto has been known as a defense-first catcher for all of his career. Harold Ramirez had not hit a home run in three months and hadn’t had a go-ahead homer late in a game for more than four years.
Friday night, however, it was Pinto and Ramirez who shook things up after the Rays offense had been quieted.
Each homered in the seventh inning as Tampa Bay rallied from a two-run deficit to beat Seattle 7-4 in front of a reported 21,243 at Tropicana Field.
“I just want to thank God for this victory, and I just was thinking of getting the RBI and the ball getting in the air,” Pinto said with a big grin spreading across his face. “And it was a home run.”
Pinto’s blast was the biggest hit of the night to that point, tying the game at 4. Three batters later, Ramirez hit his first home run since June 8 to give the Rays a two-run lead.
Isaac Paredes added his 29th homer of the season in the eighth as Tampa Bay (86-56) bounced back from being shut out the night before to pick up its 32nd come-from-behind win of the season.
The four-game series, which could be a preview of a potential playoff meeting, is now tied at one game apiece.
The Mariners (79-62), who have lost four of their last six, had come back from an early 2-0 hole on three home runs of their own, along with some strong pitching from starter George Kirby.
After needing 31 pitches to get through a two-run first inning that included the first walk he had allowed in six starts and a run scoring when an outfielder lost the ball against the Trop roof, Kirby retired 17 of the next 19 batters he faced.
Meanwhile, home runs from Eugenio Suarez, Julio Rodriguez and Cal Raleigh had the Mariners leading 4-2 heading into the seventh.
“You have to appreciate who’s on the mound and who we’re facing. We’re facing a team that can really pitch,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “With hitting, it feels like, throughout the course of the season, we’ve had a lot of ups and downs. Maybe this game, hopefully, the seventh and eighth innings, help us get going a little bit where we can be a little bit more productive earlier in ballgames.”
With Jose Siri dancing off third base in the seventh, Pinto fell behind Kirby 0-2 before cracking a line drive over the leftfield fence. Pinto has been with the Rays for only 23 games, but his 380-foot shot was his fourth homer of the season.
“I mean, he’s had some big home runs already,” Cash said. “He hit the one in Cleveland to get us on the board. This one was probably a little bit different with our crowd behind him, and he came in smiling ear to ear, and he should have been because that was a big hit.”
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It was Pinto’s third home run in his last four games. Prior to his current run, he had a total of three career big-league homers.
Pinto’s shot also chased Kirby, who allowed four runs on five hits and two walks while striking out six over 6-1/3 innings.
Ramirez, who had been sitting on nine home runs for three months, ended his career-high 55-game drought with a laser to leftfield. It was his first go-ahead home run in the seventh inning or later since Aug. 29, 2019, when he was with the Marlins, against the Reds.
“I think the league has made some adjustments to him. He’s getting pounded inside. It was impressive how he went up there and handled the ball that looked like it was kind of down and in,” Cash said. “So he’s just going to have to continue to adjust. Harold, we’re not looking for him to hit home runs we’re looking for him to have good at-bats and pick up big hits with guys on base. I think he’s done that really, really well this year.”
Starting pitcher Taj Bradley gave the Rays a career-high 6-1/3 innings, allowing four runs on six hits — including three home runs — and two walks. He struck out five but left with the Rays trailing, 4-2.
Still, Pinto said the Rays, who have much experience rallying late in games this season, knew Bradley had given them enough of a chance.
“We just stay fighting,” Pinto said. “We stay fighting until the 27th out.”
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