SEATTLE (AP) — The Tampa Bay Rays have been especially bad at the plate with runners in scoring position this week.
Ji-Man Choi came up with an easy solution in their 5-3 win Friday night over the Seattle Mariners: don’t swing.
“I think we are a pretty unique group,” Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash said. “We constantly have to find ways to win in tight ballgames. We are in a lot of tight ballgames.”
Choi drew a bases-loaded walk from reliever Anthony Bass to break a 2-all tie in the top of the ninth inning. The Mariners also committed an error and failed to turn a double play in the inning, letting another game slip away late.
The three-run burst snapped Tampa Bay’s nine-game losing streak at Seattle. The Rays won their eighth in 10 games and remained in second in the AL wild-card race.
Tampa Bay entered the game in a 1-for-23 slump with runners in scoring position since Sunday. And after scoring a pair of runs on grounders, the Rays entered the ninth 2 for 30 with runners in scoring position.
They went 0 for 3 in the ninth, but it didn’t matter this time.
After giving up a leadoff single to pinch-hitter Eric Sogard, Bass (1-4) walked Kevin Kiermaier and Michael Brosseau moved over both runners with a sacrifice bunt.
The Mariners then intentionally walked Willy Adames to load the bases. Pinch-hitting, Choi patiently worked the count full, ignoring a pair of backdoor sliders, before earning the RBI.
“Multiple pitches that (Bass) threw that you see a lot of left handers swing at, kind of that backdoor slider,” Cash said. “They all from the side looked like strikes out of hand and then they broke out of the zone. Credit Ji-Man a lot.”
Shortstop J.P. Crawford flubbed Tommy Pham’s grounder to make it 4-2 and Austin Meadows’ RBI grounder made it a three-run lead.
“That last inning there were a lot of good at-bats,” Cash said. “Sogard had a good at-bat. KK gets us going. Brosseau gets a bunt down. So a lot of things went our way. We didn’t necessarily knock the cover off the ball, but we were able to put balls in play.”
Oliver Drake (1-1) pitched a scoreless eighth for the win. And Emilio Pagan got his 10th save despite giving up rookie Ryan Court’s first career home run.
Five Rays relievers combined to strike out 11 in 5 1/3 innings after Jalen Beeks exited in the fourth inning. Beeks fanned four.
“That’s a tough team,” Seattle manager Scott Servais said. “Their bullpen is one of the better in the league. All different looks, they all do it a little bit differently. So when you get in a bullpen game like that, it takes a lot to get over the hump.”
The Rays got a boost when Servais pulled starting pitcher Marco Gonzales in the seventh inning after he took a groundball to the calf.
“He got smoked,” Servais said.
Gonzales had been on a four-game winning streak and matched his career high in strikeouts with nine. But he was forced to watch the bullpen finish the game, usually a tough scenario for Seattle this season, though Bass has been one of the team’s better relievers.
“I put myself in that position,” Bass said. “It’s never easy when you’ve got runners on base in scoring position. But you’ve got to make pitches, especially that late in the game, and I just didn’t do that.”
Former Mariners star Edgar Martinez is making the last stop on his Hall of Fame tour with a fan appreciation weekend that includes giveaways, a roundtable of Seattle notables including Ken Griffey Jr., the Seahawks’ Steve Largent, SuperSonics center Jack Sikma and Guns N’ Roses bassist Duff McKagan, and one last speech, given to fans on Saturday.
“Sometimes I feel like it’s a little too much,” Martinez said. The speech will be aimed at the fans: “I wanted to let them know how I feel about the fans, the important role they played in my career. It’s been a great relationship for a long time.”
Martinez started the celebration on Friday morning by climbing on the roof of the Space Needle to raise his number.
“Those ladders going up, that’s not a fun task,” he joked.
Rays: Yandy Diaz’s season appears to be over after doctors discovered a previously undiagnosed hairline fracture in his left foot. Diaz has been out with a bruised foot since July 22 when he fouled a ball off it. X-rays were negative, but Cash said Diaz was taking groundballs Tuesday when he began to experience extreme discomfort. A CT scan uncovered the tiny fracture of the navicular bone. He won’t need surgery, but the recovery time of six to eight weeks effectively ends his season — unless the Rays make it deep into the playoffs.
“It’s in a spot that’s pretty delicate and you don’t want to make anything worse,” Cash said.
Mariners: RHP Felix Hernandez will need one or two more rehab starts after an effective outing Thursday night at Single-A Modesto. He threw 41 pitches over two innings. Servais hopes to stretch him out to five innings before he returns to the Seattle rotation, but isn’t sure where he’ll pitch yet. … OFs Mitch Haniger (testicle surgery) and Braden Bishop (ruptured spleen) will likely start rehab assignments early next week. Both have been out since early June and Servais said they’ll need 25 to 30 minor league at-bats before he’ll consider activating them. … 2B Dee Gordon (right quad strain) met with a doctor Friday and depending on the results could make a rehab start or return to the active roster next week.
Rays: RHP Charlie Morton (12-4, 2.77 ERA) has not had two consecutive losses without a no-decision between them since 2015.
Mariners: An opener will start the game with LHP Wade LeBlanc (6-5, 5.38 ERA) scheduled to take over.