Club rewarded after keeping positive attitude through 2-8 slump, now seeks momentum
By Keegan Matheson
TORONTO -- Tuesday night was a sweet relief for the Rays' offense in Toronto as it finally jumped back to life after a 10-game slumber.
Tampa Bay racked up 13 hits -- including home runs from Lucas Duda and Wilson Ramos -- in its 6-4 win after scoring just 12 runs over a 2-8 skid. That drought included five shutout losses, so it's understandable that manager Kevin Cash waited to exhale until the very end.
"It was the out in the ninth inning that allowed me to relax," Cash said. "We were up, 6-1, against obviously a very potent offense that has some guys that can leave the ballpark. We saw it with [Josh Donaldson, who hit a three-run shot in the fifth]. There's no easy games in this division. [Third-base coach] Charlie Montoyo looked at me right after the home run and he said, 'It's never easy.'"
Put within the context of an extremely crowded Wild Card race, with no runaway favorite coming out of the non-waiver Trade Deadline, the timing of the Rays' slump couldn't have been much worse. The team's attitude throughout the difficult times, however, left its manager optimistic that nights like Tuesday would come sooner rather than later.
"It was outstanding to get some runs on the board," Cash said. "The guys felt really good. I think there was a genuine feel, like a little bit of a relief. They know what they've gone through, and they haven't changed the way they've gone about it. I think I was most impressed with the looseness that we had throughout the game -- the jokes, they were cutting up. You wouldn't have guessed to see that with a team that's gone through what we've gone through the last two weeks."
Ramos' second home run in as many days is a great sign going forward for this offense, and Duda, making his second consecutive start at first base, got the Rays started with his 21st long ball of the season. Cash said that Logan Morrison will be back at first Wednesday and Duda will DH, but coming from the National League, it's possible Duda will see some time in the field if it proves to help him at the plate.
The challenge for Tampa Bay now is to build momentum. Combined with an outing from Blake Snell that Cash thinks might have been his best this season, the Rays' defense also contributed some standout plays to a solid, all-around effort.
"The hope is it gets us going, for sure," Cash said. "It's a lot of smiles, a lot of cheering going right now. That's important, because we ask a lot of the guys, and they come in here, we want them to be positive. They have stayed positive for the most part throughout this, and hopefully there's a carryover into tomorrow. We're facing a good pitcher [Marcus Stroman], but we've got a good pitcher throwing for us [Jacob Faria]."
Keegan Matheson is a reporter for MLB.com based in Toronto. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.