ARLINGTON -- The Rays put themselves in a position to win Tuesday's game because of a lock-down bullpen that has been the team's most potent weapon for weeks. But they were given a huge assist by the Rangers' defense in Tampa Bay’s 5-3 victory in 11 innings at Globe Life Park.
The game was knotted at 3 until the Rays broke out in the 11th -- not so much because of timely hitting, though Guillermo Heredia's run-scoring single did create a little welcome breathing room. The tie was broken when the Rangers started throwing the ball around, missing target after target in a sloppy sequence that allowed Tampa Bay to plate a pair of unearned runs.
The Rays’ win helped them maintain their first-place advantage over the A’s in the American League Wild Card race. Both teams won, so the Rays’ lead remains 1 1/2 games.
“We were seeing the scores up top that Cleveland and Oakland were both leading, the last time I saw,” said Peter Fairbanks, who pitched a scoreless 11th to log his first career save. “To come away with a win in that game when we were down most of it was, first and foremost, important.”
Aggressive baserunning and hustle made the difference in the decisive 11th inning. With two outs and Nate Lowe at first, Willy Adames legged out an infield single, beating the throw to first by less than a half-step.
Kean Wong sent a dribbler halfway down the first-base line, and had pitcher Emmanuel Clase fielded it cleanly, the inning would have likely been over. Instead, Clase bobbled the ball and made a hasty throw to first, missing his target. That was the first of two errors made on one play.
“I was thinking, ‘Get there. Just get there,’” Wong said. “I saw the first baseman come off the bag and I was like, ‘Safe.’ I didn't realize the ball went to short left. I don't know. It was a crazy play.”
The ball bounced away from Danny Santana and was picked up by Rougned Odor, who fired to second to try to nab Adames, who had taken a wide turn at second and had to dive back to avoid the pickoff.
But the ball sailed far over the base and into left field, and Lowe scored, breaking the tie.
“I guess they thought I was going to third,” Adames said. “I [took a wide turn] because I thought [Lowe] was going to score. Then I took a big turn and was able to come back safe. They just rushed. I'm just happy they made a bad throw.”
From manager Kevin Cash’s perspective, Adames’ mad sprint out of the batter’s box enabled the entire inning to unfold the way it did.
“We ask a lot, but effort is at the top,” Cash said. “Give us the effort to get down the line. Our guys have been tremendous at that. All year, you can count on one hand where it wasn't there. Willy's at the top. He knew how important it was to get there. You can smell a hit -- Willy does it all the time.”
The game was tied at 3 in the eighth inning after Austin Meadows' hit a two-run homer off Rafael Montero. The Rays’ bullpen, which has been air-tight for the better part of a month, allowed two hits over four scoreless innings.
As a unit, Rays relievers have posted a 1.82 ERA over their past 11 games, allowing 11 earned runs over 54 1/3 innings.
For Anderson, the formula is simple.
“We always joke around, ‘Hey, if you don’t let the other team score, we're probably going to win,’” he said. “I think everybody takes that pretty seriously. All the pitchers -- the bullpen, the starting pitchers -- that's obviously what you’re trying to do, put up zeros. It's hard to lose when you put up zeros. To have everything go the way it is, and everyone throwing as strong as we are, we're in a good spot.”
Garcia exits early
Avisaíl García was removed from Tuesday’s game with right hip tightness, and he will be evaluated on a day-to-day basis.
Cash said the injury appears to be “a little bit of a strained glute,” and Garcia told him he may have aggravated it a little on Sunday. Cash noticed something didn’t look right on Garcia’s final swing of his strikeout in the eighth inning.
“He walked right by me and said, ‘I’m done,’” Cash said. “He’ll get some treatment, and we’ll see how he is tomorrow.”