The Rays clinched another series win on Saturday, pulling out the 5-4 win over the Mariners, despite their ace, Charlie Morton, not having his best outing.
It was the home team that put up the first crooked number of the night, with Kyle Seager beating the shift with a bunt to lead off the second inning, eventually coming around on a sac fly that Avisail Garcia did well to even make a play on.
The Rays couldn’t get to Seattle’s opener, Matt Wisler, and Tommy Milone kept them off the board in his first two innings of work as well.
The Rays bats woke up—with aggression—in the fifth, however. Jesus Aguilar (hitting .348 as a Ray) got things going with a single to right before Mike Brosseau dribbled one down to third which he was able to beat out and set up Zunino for the RISP opportunity. Zunino has struggled in those spots this year, sporting a wRC+ of 42 with men in scoring position in 2019 (of course, that’s not all that far off his overall wRC+ of 55), but he saved one of his biggest hits of the season for the team that traded him to Tampa Bay this offseason, taking Milone deeeeeeeep to left center for the 3-1 lead for the Rays.
Mike Zunino returns to Seattle and sends a 3-run HR to left center. #RaysUp 3#TrueToTheBlue 1— FOX Sports Florida (@FOXSportsFL) August 11, 2019
Watch @RaysBaseball LIVE on FOX Sports Sun l FOX Sports Go. pic.twitter.com/joLnnI7zhu
One batter later, Kevin Kiermaier nearly came out of his shoes putting a charge into another meatball, pushing the lead out to 4-1 in the process and adding to his already impressive game in the field.
We are now officially a Kevin Kiermaier fan account. #RaysUp pic.twitter.com/fqMZWap1BY— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) August 11, 2019
But Mallex Smith (aka MIS aka Mallex International Speedway aka Kristaps Porslingis) got his revenge his next time up, with a one-out triple setting the tone for a two-run bottom half of the fifth, which brought the scoreline to 4-3 through five.
Each team added one more in the sixth, first with Garcia smoking one into the left-center bleachers, and then Austin Nola singled and scored in the bottom half, leaving the score 5-4 heading into the final third of the game.
The Rays turned things over to Poche-Anderson-Pagan, which is about as steady a trio as the club can find these days, and although the trio doesn’t have a whole lot of name recognition, it’s one of the quietly better trios in baseball bullpens (go by xFIP, not ERA angry commenter who is about to post in response to this).
That trio was able to handle closing things out, with Mike Zunino, the prodigal son, stealing a big strike to finish off Kyle Seager with one out in the eighth.
The Rays are now 18 games over .500 for the first time all season, Charlie Morton is now 13-4 on the season, and thanks to Alex Colome holding off the A’s in a frantic ninth earlier in the day, the Rays lead in the second Wild Card spot is now 1.5 games heading into Sunday’s series final.
It’ll be Yarbs on the hill looking for the sweep, with the action set to get underway 4:10 pm EST.