'Like Christmas': Phillips, Choi lead Rays' rout

June 27th, 2021

Tampa Bay's last two wins entering Saturday came in somewhat unusual fashion.

Manuel Margot scored the game-winning run on a wild pitch in a walk-off win against the Red Sox on Thursday. Then Tampa Bay capitalized on fielding miscues from the Halos and took the lead in Friday night’s win on a go-ahead hit-by-pitch in the seventh inning.

But there were no gimmicks in Saturday’s 13-3 win over the Halos at Tropicana Field. Just hits.

The Rays extended their winning streak to four games after stringing together 15 hits on a day in which every batter in the starting lineup reached base safely.

“I'm gonna tell you what it's like,” said , who went 2-for-4 with a triple and three RBIs. “It's like waking up on Christmas morning as a kid and seeing all the presents, [or] your birthday. All the exciting things that you can imagine when you score a lot of runs like that. Everyone is excited and happy. That's what it's like. Really good energy across the board from the fans down to the dugout. Offensively, those are the type of games that make the year go by better at times.”

Trailing 3-2 in the fourth, Tampa Bay got the offensive onslaught going against Angels starter Alex Cobb.

Randy Arozarena and each singled to set up Joey Wendle's two-out RBI single to left field. Wendle's clutch knock was followed by Phillips, who cleared the bases on a triple that bounced just in front of the center-field wall. Fresh off ending his 15 at-bat hitless streak, Phillips then scored the fourth run of the frame on a wild pitch.

“My mindset is the same every time I walk up to the plate,” Phillips said. “I'm 0-for-0 and I'm here to help the team win any way I can, and that's the mindset I feel like you have to have in this game. Each and every day, showing up fresh and doing whatever you can to help this team win, and you know that's what I try and do on a daily basis.”

The Rays never looked back, ballooning their lead to 8-3 following an RBI single from Choi in the fifth and a solo home run from Mike Zunino in the sixth.

They put the game away with a five-spot in the seventh.

Choi collected his third hit and drove home Arozarena with a double in an inning the Rays drew four walks and sent 11 batters to the plate.

“They all saw the ball well, it seemed like,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “When you score that many, you got to have a lot of guys contribute and we did, top to bottom. A bunch of big hits. So it went around the entire lineup where it seemed like just good at-bat after good at-bat. Didn't give in, took their walks and came up with a lot of big hits for RBIs and runs.”

Like Phillips, Choi broke a dry spell at the plate.

Choi entered Saturday on a 4-for-30 slump since coming off the injured list on June 14. He remedied that by going 4-for-5 with two RBIs, marking the first four-hit game of his MLB career.

"It doesn't mean much, but I'm just happy we had success at the plate today,” Choi said through interpreter Steve Nam. "My main focus was just to be aggressive. And I think I did that today."

The breakout performances from Choi and Phillips parallel the turnaround from a week ago when the Rays were on a seven-game skid.

Following the blowout win, Cash said his ballclub has flipped the script as it has risen back to first place in the AL East.

“I know the last two nights before today, we've won some games here in unique fashion, but you're right in the ballgame,” Cash said. “It's nice to flip it around a little bit and have some things go away, but also put enough pressure to where they are going our way.”