Perez's HR backs more gutsy Rays pitching

August 27th, 2020

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays didn’t play their cleanest game of the season on Wednesday, but they were still able to come away with a 4-3 win over the Orioles at Tropicana Field thanks to an eighth-inning homer by .

Perez, who has served as Mike Zunino’s backup, has shown the ability to hit and come through in big situations. Perez had a pair of big at-bats against the Yankees in the previous homestand, including his first career walk-off hit against Zack Britton on Aug. 9. His first homer of the season couldn’t have come at a better time, pushing the Rays to a 21-11 record.

“That role of kind of the backup catcher, it can be a tough one at times,” said manager Kevin Cash. “It’s always nice. He’s come up with some big hits for us. Good for him. It really sparked the dugout.”

Perez said that his approach at the plate was just to stay relaxed and not try to do too much. He also added that while he would like to play on a more regular basis, he’s just focused on what he can control.

“Mentally, I just try and stay positive and keep working,” Perez said. “There’s nothing really specific, but I think the hardest part is staying positive mentally.”

The pitching staff comes through again
While Perez got the big hit, the Rays’ pitching staff -- which now has 10 pitchers on the injured list with Jalen Beeks out for the season -- deserves a lot of credit for the win.

Tampa Bay’s defense, which continues to be a work in progress, was charged with two errors on Wednesday, and there were a handful of other plays that could have easily been recorded as such but weren't. Despite that, the Rays’ staff held the Orioles to just three runs -- all unearned.

“The pitching was huge,” Cash said. “Our defense wasn’t as clean as we would like it. We’re going to continue to harp on that, talk to them about it. But our pitchers did a tremendous job. ... We won the game because they were able to limit damage and pick us up after some of our defensive miscues.”

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started the game and allowed two runs (both unearned) over 4 1/3 innings. The bullpen picked up right where Richards left off, allowing just one unearned run over the last 4 2/3 innings of the game.

picked up his first save of the season, giving Tampa Bay 10 pitchers with at least one save this season. The Rays have used 24 arms this season. as made his first appearance in the Majors since May 7, 2018, with the Cardinals.

Sheriff, who was released by St. Louis after having Tommy John surgery in 2018 and then signed a three-year with the Rays that offseason, said that stepping back out on the mound was a “full circle” moment.

“It felt really good,” Sherriff said. “It’s been a long journey for me, so it’s crazy how the universe works. I’m just so grateful to be here. It’s good.”

Ongoing conversations
With some MLB teams deciding not to play on Wednesday to show solidarity against social injustices, the Rays said that they will keep the conversation going about what they’ll do regarding Thursday’s series finale against the Orioles.

“We’ll keep the conversations in-house and in the clubhouse. But saying that, I think we all recognize that there’s work to be done and we have to do better as a society,” Cash said. “Hopefully the Rays and our players, our staff and everybody involved, is at the forefront of doing that.”

echoed that the conversations were going to stay inside the clubhouse, but he did not know if Thursday’s game will be played. What he does know, however, is the impact that decision may have.

“With the platform that we have as athletes, you can’t just sit back and let this stuff go unnoticed,” Lowe said. “We just have to do everything that we can to be better and do what we can to make sure stuff like this doesn’t happen.”