ST. PETERSBURG -- Talk about picking up the slack. With the Rays beset by injuries, Mallex Smith and Daniel Robertson answered the call in an 8-4 win over the Rangers on Monday night at Tropicana Field.Smith started in center field in the absence of Kevin Kiermaier, who learned Monday morning
ST. PETERSBURG -- Talk about picking up the slack. With the Rays beset by injuries, Mallex Smith and Daniel Robertson answered the call in an 8-4 win over the Rangers on Monday night at Tropicana Field.
Smith started in center field in the absence of Kevin Kiermaier, who learned Monday morning that he needs surgery to repair a torn ligament in his right thumb, which is expected to cost him three months.
The speedy Smith went 4-for-4, finding himself in the middle of rallies in the second and third innings. Mondays have been good for Smith this season; last week, he went 4-for-4 in a 5-4 Rays win over the White Sox in Chicago.
"I'm not here to prove myself or establish myself," Smith said. "I'm here to help the team win. Whatever I can do to help the team win, that's what I'm here for."
Smith's stellar performance raised his average to .409 for the season.
Robertson started at second base, then shifted to third after Matt Duffy left in the first inning with right hamstring tightness. Robertson made two diving grabs that saw him throw out Rangers hitters at first, and then he hit his first home run of the season in the fourth.
"Robby had a tremendous day defensively," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "We saw it all year last year -- it was nice to see him make those plays. Those were game-changing plays. Mallex did a nice job. He's been swinging the bat as well as anybody, obviously. But to fill in over there, [he] ran around and got to some tough plays."
Robertson said it's important to stay ready.
"I think that's our mindset, as far as Mallex and me," Robertson said. "He busts his butt in BP, working at all three positions out there, taking reads. Same goes for me -- even though I'm slated to play second base, I'm out there taking ground balls at short and third. Just trying to stay as sharp as I can at all three positions.
"It's not easy to move around and do that. But when you prepare yourself, when you get put in those situations, it makes it a little easier. I was able to go out there and make a couple of nice plays. So it was fun."
Blake Snell started for the Rays and logged his second consecutive quality start, allowing a run on five hits while striking out nine in 6 1/3 innings. The lefty was backed by solid defense, in particular Robertson's effort.
"We saw the efficiency," Cash said. "He had plenty left in the tank to continue pitching, but given 114-115 pitches [last outing], we thought that was enough."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Rays power up in fourth: After Joey Gallo hit an impressive home run off Snell in the fourth that put the Rangers on the scoreboard, the Rays answered in the bottom half of the inning with some firepower of their own. First, C.J. Cron hit his second home run of the season, a 401-foot shot to center. One out later, Robertson hit his first home run of the season, depositing a Martin Perez pitch over the wall in right. The homers, which were just the eighth and ninth homers of the year for the team, gave the Rays a comfortable 8-1 lead.
Snell's start was the longest by the Rays this season. It's was the team's second quality start of the season, both by the lefty.
HU OPTIONED, WOOD RECALLED
Recalled prior to Monday night's game, Chih-Wei Hu pitched 2 2/3 innings to finish the game. Afterward, he was optioned back to Triple-A Durham. The Rays recalled right-hander Hunter Wood from Durham.
HE SAID IT
"This is just another bump in the road, and there's nothing I can do besides do whatever it takes to get out there as soon as possible and get back on the field. I'm bummed right now, but I'm not going to sit here and pout." -- Kiermaier
The Rays will have a bullpen day on Tuesday night when they host the Rangers at Tropicana Field in the second game of a three-game series. Yonny Chirinos will start for the Rays. The rookie right-hander has not given up a run in 14 1/3 innings this season. Opposing Chirinos will be former Ray Matt Moore. Gametime is 7:10 p.m. ET.
Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for MLB.com since 2005.