Rays 'create a little havoc' while running past Red Sox

May 14th, 2024

BOSTON -- The Rays put their speed to good use Monday night at Fenway Park.

hit a two-run triple and scored in the first inning, essentially hustled his way to the go-ahead run in the fourth inning and the Rays added another run in the eighth to secure a 5-3 win over the Red Sox.

The Rays’ seventh victory in their past 10 games pulled them back to .500, at 21-21, to begin a seven-game swing through Boston and Toronto.

“Simply put, I think it's just our turn now,” first baseman Yandy Díaz, who tied his season high with three hits, said through interpreter Manny Navarro. “I think the bats are starting to produce a little bit, and thank God we were able to do that.”

The Rays haven’t been able to replicate the power they displayed last season, particularly during their remarkably hot start. They’ve hit only 35 home runs in 42 games, and their .371 slugging percentage ranks among the bottom five in the American League. Isaac Paredes has pulled eight homers, Randy Arozarena has hit seven and no other Ray has more than three.

But speed remains an essential element of Tampa Bay’s offensive profile. The club leads the AL in stolen bases, with 50. The Rays entered the series opener with a Major League-leading 47 infield hits. They have seven active hitters with above-average sprint speed, according to Statcast: Jose Siri, Rosario, Jonny DeLuca, Caballero, Harold Ramírez, Arozarena and Richie Palacios.

“We'd like to create a little havoc on the defense, create a little havoc on the pitcher and catcher,” manager Kevin Cash said. “I feel like we've done that. We’ve just got to stay intelligent while we're doing it.”

The Rays’ running helped them score four runs against Red Sox starter Kutter Crawford, who entered the night with a 1.75 ERA that ranked second (behind the Royals’ Seth Lugo) among qualified AL pitchers.

Rosario had the biggest hit in the Rays’ first-inning rally, which began with a leadoff single by Díaz and a two-out walk by Ramírez. Rosario, who leads the Majors with 42 triples since 2018, lined a two-strike cutter to center field. Ceddanne Rafaela made a valiant diving attempt, but the ball bounced off his glove and rolled toward right field.

Díaz and Ramírez scored, and Rosario wheeled around the bases for his third triple of the season. That put him in position to score easily when Palacios knocked a single to center field, capping Tampa Bay’s three-run opening frame.

“Off the bat, watching him closing on it, I'm like, ‘There's a good chance he's gonna catch it,’” Cash said of Rafaela’s attempt. “Fortunately for us, he didn't, and we were able to capitalize and score.”

But the Red Sox quickly tied it, as Tyler O’Neill launched a three-run homer off Rays starter Zach Eflin. The right-hander said he felt “pretty off with everything,” so he set his mind on trying to “dig deep and find a way.”

He did exactly that. Eflin retired 12 of the following 15 batters to complete five innings before turning it over to relievers Kevin Kelly, Garrett Cleavinger and Jason Adam, who struck out six over four nearly spotless frames.

And the Rays rewarded Eflin for his effort, as Caballero capitalized on another break going their way to create another run in the fourth. The speedy shortstop hit a popup down the first-base line that landed just fair, out of Boston’s reach, and dashed to second.

“As soon as I saw that ball drop, I was thinking two, maybe three,” Caballero said. “Like I always say, I'm trying to advance as many bases as possible.”

That mentality didn’t fade once he reached second. He got a great break and stole third, his American League-leading 17th steal of the season, setting himself up to score when Siri smacked an 0-2 pitch on a line to left for a sacrifice fly that put the Rays ahead.

“I feel like that's always been the organization's M.O., is being able to take the extra bag, being able to move the guy over, small-ball people to death, beat people with intensity and energy,” Eflin said. “And that's exactly what he displayed. He's been a sparkplug for us.”

Rosario gave the Rays some breathing room in the eighth. After Josh Lowe doubled and pinch-hitter Austin Shenton worked a walk against reliever Greg Weissert, Rosario smashed an RBI double off the Green Monster.

“That's part of the game. I think it really helps us,” Rosario said through Navarro. “I think it makes the game easier for everybody else when you've got guys that can move around a little bit, and it's tremendous.”