Rays' offense steps up in fourth straight win
Kiermaier sparks scoring, Forsythe goes 3-for-5 , Souza Jr. walks five times in victory
ST. PETERSBURG -- A much-welcomed effort by Rays hitters fueled a 6-1 win over the Nationals on Monday night at Tropicana Field.
When all was said and done, Rays hitters had collected 11 hits and seven walks in an effort that kept the heat on Nationals pitchers throughout the game. And even though the Rays left 13 on base, manager Kevin Cash could smile afterward.
"We got enough," Cash said. "We did have a lot of guys on base. You want to get as many as you can, but tonight it seemed six was enough."
Kevin Kiermaier got the offense going when he manufactured a run in the second. First, he singled through the middle with one out, but he turned the hit into a double, hustling into second with a head-first slide. After stealing third, he scored the Rays' first run on a Rene Rivera's sacrifice fly.
"I hit that ball up the middle and rounding first base, I liked my chances with the distance between the ball and him," Kiermaier said. "It didn't look like he was charging too hard. So I wanted to push the limit right there.
" ... I always try to do that to cause a big-moment swing for us. And ever since that play, I stole third, and Rene did a great job of hitting that sac fly right there and having a quality at-bat. And then the next couple of innings, we tacked on a few more."
Kiermaier's teammates appreciate his hustle.
"That was huge," Steven Souza Jr. said. "K.K. was a firestarter for us today."
Kiermaier added another single-turned-into-a-double in the fifth, when he singled off first base and finished on second base with his second two-bagger of the night. Appropriately, that would turn into the Rays' sixth run.
Sandwiched between the Kiermaier scores was plenty of offensive action. The Rays loaded the bases in the second, third and fourth innings (they would load the bases four times in the game). In the middle of all that traffic on the basepaths, Logan Forsythe went 3-for-5 with two RBIs. The Rays second baseman also came through with a nifty defensive play when he went to the other side of second base then threw across his body to steal a base hit from Tyler Moore in the eighth.
Brandon Guyer had an RBI triple and Jake Elmore and Evan Longoria had sacrifice flies. The oddity of the night went to Souza Jr. The Rays rookie drew five walks against his former teammates to tie Matt Joyce for the single-game club record set April 25, 2014, against the White Sox in Chicago.
Souza did not score a run, but he helped move the conga line as he drew walks that loaded the bases on three occasions.
"I was just trying to see the ball and put a barrel on it," Souza said. "I wasn't really thinking about whether they were going to throw a strike or not. Taking it one at-bat at a time."
The Rays' offense has scored at least five runs in three of their past four games, after four runs or fewer in seven straight.
Nationals starter Gio Gonzalez allowed five of the Rays' runs in 3 1/3 innings.
"I was falling behind trying to get in the strike zone, and they were putting the ball in play," Gonzalez said. "Just they found holes. They found hits, they found a way to get a run in, and I was just trying to make the adjustment, trying to pound the strike zone, get better."