Siri's double clutch as Comeback Kids strike again

Rays earn 16th come-from-behind victory in battle to finish

June 2nd, 2024

BALTIMORE -- With runners on first and second base, nobody out and the Rays trailing by a run in the eighth inning Sunday afternoon, the plan was for to drop a sacrifice bunt.

He squared around three times, pulling the bat back for two balls and then missing on another attempt. Then, the call came from the dugout. Well, it was actually more of a shout from manager Kevin Cash.

“Swing it!” Cash said, according to Siri. “Swing it!"

“The way he looked after the first one,” Cash said afterward, “we decided to take it off.”

Swinging away turned out to be the smart play.

After taking one more pitch to make it a 3-1 count, Siri hammered a sinker from Orioles reliever Dillon Tate to right-center field for a two-run double, turning the Rays’ one-run deficit into a one-run lead. Tampa Bay held on to beat Baltimore, 4-3, and avoid a weekend sweep at Camden Yards.

“I was just trying to do something for the team, trying to get the runners over, and I heard Cash yelling to me from the dugout to go ahead and hit,” Siri said through interpreter Manny Navarro. “He's the boss. I’ve got to listen to him.”

It was a big swing for the Rays, who secured their 16th comeback win of the season, tied with the Tigers for third most in the American League behind the Yankees and Orioles. But it started with Zack Littell, who allowed a career-high 11 hits yet managed to put together his second consecutive quality start and his fifth of the season.

“Kind of happy with it, kind of not,” Littell said, smiling. “Controlling the big inning was obviously a big emphasis.”

Littell held the Orioles to three runs over six innings, and only one of the 11 hits he scattered went for extra bases: Gunnar Henderson’s leadoff home run. His effort kept the Rays within striking distance, and after struggling to get anything going against starter Cole Irvin for four innings, they hit their way back into the game.

José Caballero singled and scored on a sacrifice fly by Yandy Díaz in the fifth to put the Rays on the board, then Caballero made it a one-run game with a first-pitch, leadoff homer off Irvin in the seventh.

Caballero briefly appeared to be injured in the second inning after he made a diving stop on a Jorge Mateo single. He said he felt a “weird” pull in his side and couldn’t breathe initially, but he recovered and felt normal after a few minutes.

“Very happy he stayed in the game,” Littell said. “Ended up being a really good thing.”

Isaac Paredes and Amed Rosario started the Rays’ go-ahead rally with a pair of singles, setting up Siri to continue his recent turnaround. When Cash called off the bunt sign, Siri said, he kept his focus simple: Try to hit the ball to right field.

The speedy center fielder is 7-for-21 over his past six games after going 7-for-68 in his previous 25, and he has played a major role in each of their last three wins. Siri had a game-saving catch and walk-off hit on Wednesday, a game-tying homer off A’s closer Mason Miller on Thursday and his second career go-ahead hit with his team trailing in the eighth inning or later on Sunday.

“He's swinging the bat really, really well. Came through in a big way,” Cash said. “I thought it was a homer off the bat, but put a charge into it and picked up two runs.”

The Orioles loaded the bases with one out in the eighth, but lefty Garrett Cleavinger got Ryan Mountcastle to hit into an inning-ending double play. Closer Pete Fairbanks preserved the one-run lead and picked up his sixth save of the season in the ninth.

With the win, the Rays improved to 12-4 in one-run games and a Major League-best 21-9 in games decided by two runs or fewer. They’ve trailed at some point in each of their past 14 games, going 5-9 during that stretch, and haven’t had a wire-to-wire victory since May 17.

But they needed a win Sunday to avoid being swept by the Orioles for the first time since 2020 and snap their six-game losing streak against AL East opponents, and they came back to get one.

“We've got more work to do, certainly, but [the Orioles are] a good team. Felt like we played them pretty tough for Game 1 and Game 3, and then even early on [Saturday],” Cash said. “We've got to find ways to get back to being ourselves and finding ways to win games late, kind of like what we did today.”