Rays come out on top in back-and-forth slugfest vs. Braves

June 16th, 2024

ATLANTA -- Jose Siri and the Rays had the last laugh against the Braves on Sunday afternoon.

Siri responded to Austin Riley’s game-tying two-run homer in the eighth inning with a two-run shot of his own off Atlanta closer Raisel Iglesias in the ninth inning that propelled Tampa Bay to an 8-6 win as the club avoided the sweep at Truist Park.

The Rays hit three home runs, including Ben Rortvedt’s fourth-inning grand slam, as they scored eight runs for the first time since a 9-5 win over the Marlins on June 4.

Brandon Lowe also homered -- a solo shot in the third -- and Randy Arozarena’s first-inning RBI single accounted for the rest of the offense.

Siri's blast was the second home run and eighth earned run Iglesias has allowed in 28 appearances this season.

“I was just looking for a good pitch,” Siri said through interpreter Manny Navarro. “We know Iglesias is a really good pitcher. He knows how to pitch out there. I was just trying to stay concentrated the whole time.”

Siri’s eighth home run of the year traveled a Statcast-projected 416 feet before it landed in the left-center field bleachers.

“[Siri] hung in there,” manager Kevin Cash said. “He got a pitch that he didn’t like called [on the] first pitch. Then he fouled a ball off his foot. He was in some considerable pain. He got some time to regroup. I’m proud of the way he hung in there against a good closer. He got a [changeup] down in the zone.”

For the third time in the series, the Rays (34-38) took an early lead by scoring a run in the first inning. But Jarred Kelenic (first inning) and Travis d’Arnaud (second inning) responded with solo shots off Tampa Bay starter Zach Eflin to give Atlanta a 2-1 lead after two innings.

Brandon Lowe tied the game back up in the third with a solo home run, and that set the table for Rortvedt’s go-ahead grand slam in the fourth. It was Rortvedt’s first home run of the season and first career grand slam.

“I hit a home run, but I really try not to do too much,” Rortvedt said. “I try to put a good swing on a pitch. I’m trying to see a fastball or offspeed up in the zone to get something to the outfield. I ended up pulling one inside and got a good swing on it. It ended up being in my favor, so it was pretty cool.”

Leading up to the grand slam, Arozarena was hit by a pitch and Richie Palacios and Siri were walked to load the bags.

Arozarena scored two runs in the game. He also walked prior to the Siri home run.

“Randy’s at-bats all game were really good,” Cash said. “He played a big role in a lot of those runs coming across [by] laying off some of those close pitches.”

Braves starting pitcher Hurston Waldrep struggled with location in his second big league start. The right-hander hung in there the first time through the Rays’ order, but control issues lingered the second time through.

Waldrep surrendered four free passes, including the two directly prior to Rortvedt’s grand slam. Rortvedt swung at the first pitch of his at-bat.

“I was trying to lay off splitters, but at the same time in that situation, the first pitch might be your best pitch to hit,” Rortvedt said. “I think my first [at-bat], I saw six pitches and got to 3-2 and ended up flying out. I saw his stuff, but [I thought ] the first pitch might be the best pitch you see, and I think it was.”

The grand slam gave the Rays a 6-2 lead after four innings, but the Braves used four unanswered runs to tie it after eight frames before Siri put Tampa Bay ahead for good in the ninth.

In his 18th career game (15th start) against the Braves, Eflin went 5 2/3 innings, allowing four runs (three earned) on seven hits and one walk with seven strikeouts. The walk, issued in the fourth inning, ended the right-hander’s streak of 39 1/3 innings without issuing a free pass.

Eflin ran into trouble in the sixth as he allowed four two-out singles in a row, which allowed the Braves to add two more runs. Riley’s homer off Jason Adam resulted in a no-decision for Eflin.

The Rays have some offensive momentum and a day off before beginning a three-game series in Minnesota on Tuesday.

“I’m pleased with the hits,” Cash said. “Lowe’s home run early, we’ll take it right now. I want these guys to feel good about what they’re capable of doing at the plate.”