ST. PETERSBURG -- Entering the top of the ninth, Tampa Bay was in what looked like a perfect position with a five-run lead.Then Jake Faria walked the first three batters he faced.And while Jose Alvarado was able to strike out Jed Lowrie, that brought American League home-run leader Khris Davis
ST. PETERSBURG -- Entering the top of the ninth, Tampa Bay was in what looked like a perfect position with a five-run lead.
Then Jake Faria walked the first three batters he faced.
And while Jose Alvarado was able to strike out Jed Lowrie, that brought American League home-run leader Khris Davis to the plate. Davis made the most of it, blasting a grand slam on the first pitch Sergio Romo threw.
To Romo's credit, he rebounded, struck out Matt Olson and forced a Stephen Piscotty flyout to preserve a 5-4 win for the Rays over the Athletics on Sunday at Tropicana Field. With the win, Tampa Bay moved within seven games of Oakland for the second American League Wild Card after taking two of three in the weekend series.
Faria, who had not pitched since Sept. 5, accepted the responsibility in allowing the runs, saying that while it was frustrating not to pitch in 10 days, it was just as frustrating to not pitch well when given the opportunity.
"It's on me to stay prepared," Faria said. "I felt good in the 'pen, and I just trusted that instead of being focused on the hitter. I just lost focus and didn't get back on track again."
Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash was willing to accept his fair share of it as well.
"That's as much on me as him," Cash said. "He hadn't been out there consistently, and I need to do a better job of getting him some reps."
As stressful as Sunday's game was, it was important for the relatively young ball club to hang on for the win. Especially considering the team won on an eighth-inning homer on Saturday after losing by a run on Friday. Being resilient was exactly what Cash wanted to see.
"I would like to say that was the first time, but we've seen it a lot," Cash said of the team's toughness. "These guys carry themselves really well; they hold themselves to high standards."
The ninth-inning scare nearly spoiled what had largely been an impressive day out of the Rays' bullpen. Tampa Bay allowed no runs through eight innings, scattering just three hits and a walk while striking out four.
After Diego Castillo worked an easy top of the first, Matt Duffy was hit by a Mike Fiers pitch with one out in the bottom of the inning. A fielder's choice put Ji-Man Choi at first, and C.J. Cron followed it up with a two-run no-doubter to left field for his 27th home run.
Willy Adames added his own big fly in the bottom of the fourth. After working a 3-2 count on eight pitches, Adames sent Fiers' ninth offering, a fastball, 420 feet and 109.7 mph off the bat, according to Statcast™. That gave Tampa Bay a 3-0 lead.
"I've been hanging out a lot with Carlos Gomez and C.J. Cron," Adames joked about his power. "I don't consider myself as a power hitter -- I think I'm a gap hitter -- but once in a while, I'm going to go deep."
The Rays added a pair of insurance runs in the bottom of the seventh when Brandon Lowe cranked a triple down the right-field line, extending the lead to 5-0.
But the biggest story for the Rays may have been stellar pitching on a bullpen day.
After Castillo's scoreless inning, Andrew Kittredge, Hunter Wood and Jaime Schultz each pitched a pair of innings, allowing just a walk and hit among them.
"Everyone's got their own job to do, but as far as the way the bullpen is working right now, the whole staff is just kind of clicking," Kittredge said. "We just have confidence the next guy is going to pick you up if you don't throw well."
Adam Kolarek came on to pitch the eighth and allowed a single to Olson, but induced a double-play grounder from Piscotty. Ramon Laureano then doubled before a Marcus Semien groundout ended the inning.
Following Davis' grand slam, Romo recovered to earn his 21st save of the season.
Adames also hit a ground-rule double in the eighth inning. With it, Adames has had two or more hits in five of his past 11 games and is batting .350/.435/.475 since the start of September.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
With Schultz pitching in the sixth and two out, Nick Martini blooped a 3-2 fastball down the left-field line. Jake Bauers was able to track it down and haul it in after making a dive in foul territory.
HE SAID IT
"I'm ecstatic. Hopefully we can continue to get it going. This organization has been very fortunate in the last decade, playing in a lot of playoff games, but we want to get back to that. We have had a little bit of a lull recently, but these guys give you some positive thoughts on what's on the horizon." -- Cash, on the team's 82nd win, which clinched the first winning season for Tampa Bay since 2013
Tampa Bay will send right-hander Tyler Glasnow (1-6, 4.48 ERA) to the mound in the opener of a three-game road series against the Rangers on Monday at 8:05 p.m. ET at Globe Life Park. While Glasnow looks for his first individual win with the Rays, the club will seek another series win after taking two of three from Texas in April. Texas has not yet announced its starter.
Greg Zeck is a contributor to MLB.com based in St. Petersburg.