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Pham finishes big day with walk-off knock

@juanctoribio
September 2, 2019

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays are going to continue to utilize their entire roster over the last 24 games of the regular season, but in order for Tampa Bay to clinch its first postseason berth since 2013, it's going to need its stars to show up big. That was certainly

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays are going to continue to utilize their entire roster over the last 24 games of the regular season, but in order for Tampa Bay to clinch its first postseason berth since 2013, it's going to need its stars to show up big.

That was certainly the case on Monday as Tommy Pham's walk-off single in the 10th inning led the Rays to a fifth consecutive victory with a 5-4 win over the Orioles at Tropicana Field.

Box score

“They’re going to have do that,” said Rays manager Kevin Cash. “They’ve got to continue and they’ve worked really hard to get to this point where we’re at. [It] really started to show in the Houston series. We started to see some life at the plate with some guys. Kind of the core guys that have been here, done that all year long -- look for that to carry over.”

Austin Meadows connected on his team-leading 25th home run of the season with a two-run shot off O's starter Asher Wojciechowski to open the scoring in the third inning. In the fifth, Pham delivered with a two-run double to give the Rays a 4-0 lead.

After the Orioles rallied to tie it, Pham stepped to the plate in the 10th inning and hit a 2-1 curveball from reliever Dillon Tate past a diving Rio Ruiz, allowing Joey Wendle to slide in under the tag at home for the winning run. It was Pham’s first walk-off hit as a member of the Rays and the second of his career.

“Get a hit,” Pham said of his mindset in that final at-bat. “I didn’t feel like going any more innings, especially with a doubleheader tomorrow. We can’t really afford to have our pitchers out there for an extended amount of innings.”

Before delivering the walk-off hit, Pham wasn’t pleased with some chirping coming from the O's dugout. After Tate threw high and inside on the first pitch of the at-bat, Pham said he heard players from the visiting dugout hollering at him. In his previous at-bat, Pham was hit right above his right knee by Tanner Scott.

“I’m more frustrated with their dugout hollering after the pitches that were thrown,” Pham said. “It was kind of like they were cheering him on, that he was buzzing me up and in.”

Pham, however, got the last laugh as he ended the game a few pitches later, completing the seventh walk-off win of the season for Tampa Bay.

“Success is revenge,” Pham said. “And I got the game-winning hit for us and we won.”

While Pham, Meadows and Wendle did the heavy lifting on the offensive side, registering all six of the Rays’ hits, Tampa Bay's bullpen threw four scoreless innings to pick up starter Ryan Yarbrough, who allowed four runs over six frames.

Diego Castillo, Oliver Drake, Emilio Pagan and Colin Poche combined to allow just one baserunner -- which was eventually erased on an inning-ending double play in the 10th -- over the last four innings.

“The bullpen was outstanding today,” Cash said. “Oliver Drake comes in, does his thing. Emilio. Diego had a clean inning, which was big for him -- and us. And then Poche looked like he was closer to form with the strike-throwing.”

After struggling at home for most of the season, the Rays have won seven of their last nine games -- and 11 of their last 16 -- at Tropicana Field. Tampa Bay also improved to 23 games over .500 for the first time since finishing the 2010 season with a 96-66 record.

But most importantly, the Rays retain sole possession atop the American League Wild Card standings with 23 games left in the regular season. They moved 1 1/2 games ahead of the idle Athletics, who trail the Indians for the final spot.

“I’m excited that we’ve won five straight. That’s fun,” Wendle said. “I think we have a good balance right now of trying to take it day by day, but also we’re aware of where we are in the standings. There’s a lot of season left, so we need to continue to go win baseball games.”

Juan Toribio covers the Rays for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @juanctoribio.