DUNEDIN — Behind by the two runs they had just allowed — and three outs from the end of their remarkable run — the Rays talked quickly in the dugout before hitting in the ninth inning.
Whether a residual of their recent hot streak, the experience of all the close games they play or a belief built by their previous comebacks, there was a clear confidence that they weren’t done.
“Even though we had just given up two‚ coming in the dugout, you feed off that energy. Everyone was just like, ‘We’re good, ...” outfielder Brett Phillips said. “That was the discussion amongst everyone, ‘Hey, let’s just put together good at-bats. Let’s do what we do.’ And luckily, things went our way.”
By the time they were finished hitting, they had scored four runs, three on consecutive bases-loaded walks, rallied for a remarkable 6-4 win and extended their majors-best win streak to 10, second longest in franchise history.
Also, they moved into a tie with the Red Sox for first place with an American League-best 29-19 record.
“That,” Austin Meadows said, “was a nice win.”
Ji-Man Choi started the rally with a leadoff walk against Jays closer Tyler Chatwood. Brandon Lowe slapped a pinch-hit single. Taylor Walls hit a fielder’s choice grounder, putting runners on the corners. Phillips delivered the first clutch hit, a single against the shift to cut the lead to 4-3.
After Randy Arozarena flied to right for the second out, Yandy Diaz drew a four-pitch walk to load the bases. With the lefty swinging Meadows up, Jays manager Charlie Montoyo went to lefty Travis Bergen, which proved to be a very bad move.
Rays manager Kevin Cash noted Bergen was “probably a little unfamiliar” pitching in such a high-intensity moment. Even better, he said, “Our guys they did a tremendous job of not helping him out.”
Meadows battled, with some help from Walls taking advantage of the Jays’ defense shift to distract Bergen by walking halfway down the line and feigning breaking for home. Up 2-0, even 2-2, then with the count full, Meadows fouled off three pitches, then took Ball Four to force in the tying run.
“It started from pitch one, just getting ourselves in hitters counts,” Cash said. “And if they don’t see what they like, they’re willing to take and not panic in the at-bat.”
The Rays were on to something. Manuel Margot was next, and didn’t swing the bat, walking on five pitches to put the Rays up 5-4. Mike Brosseau did the same in four pitches, and they had a 6-4 lead.
“Austin Meadows, his at-bat was just remarkable. After that, it seemed like everybody followed suit,” Cash said. “There are a lot of good things that happened that inning. Chatwood had been throwing the ball really well for them. We put a lot of pressure (on), got guys on base to allow that to happen.”
That was the fourth time in 24 seasons the Rays had drawn three consecutive bases-loaded walks in an inning, the second time in the ninth (Aug. 10, 2010, at Detroit) and the first time when trailing.
“We’ll take anything in that moment,” Meadows said. “The pressure was all on the pitcher. We just took the pressure off ourselves and ended up getting some walks and winning the game.”
The win streak is the Rays’ second longest, behind only Lou Piniella’s 2004 team that won 12 straight on the way to a then-franchise-best 70-win season. As Cash did his postgame video interview, the players could be heard celebrating in the adjacent tent that serves as the visiting clubhouse at TD Ballpark as newcomer J.P. Feyereisen closed it out with a one-hit ninth.
“They’re having a good time right now and they should be,” Cash said. “They’ve played so well. It’s been fun to watch.”
A quality ninth inning
A breakdown of the Rays’ ninth-inning rally from a 4-2 deficit to 6-4 lead with a string of quality at-bats:
• Ji-Man Choi, 5-pitch walk from Tyler Chatwood
• Brandn Lowe, first-pitch pinch-hit single to left
• Taylor Walls, full-count fielder’s choice grounder, forcing Lowe at second
• Brett Phillips, RBI single on 1-0 count, cutting lead to 4-3
• Randy Arozarena flyout on 1-2 pitch for second out
• Yandy Diaz, four-pitch walk to load bases
• Pitching change: lefty Travis Bergen takes over
• Austin Meadows, nine-pitch walk to force in tying run
• Manuel Margot, five-pitch walk to force in go-ahead run, Rays lead 5-4
• Mike Brosseau, four-pitch walk to force in run, Rays lead 6-4
• Choi flyout for third out
• • •
Sign up for the Rays Report weekly newsletter to get fresh perspectives on the Tampa Bay Rays and the rest of the majors from sports columnist John Romano.