ST. PETERSBURG -- Michael Brosseau clobbered his fifth home run of the season and collected three hits to lead the Rays to a 7-2 win over the Marlins on Sunday at Tropicana Field, completing a sweep of the two-game weekend set and the four-game season series.
Brosseau, who was originally called up to fill in for the injured Daniel Robertson and Matt Duffy, has played his way into consistent playing time at second and third base. The 24-year-old undrafted rookie is now hitting .313 in 25 games.
“Continues to impress,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “Hasn’t played a ton here of late just because of matchups, but when he’s asked, he’s ready. Gives great at-bats. The home run was great, but the ball off the plate away, stays on it -- he really challenges pitchers.”
The infielder has been even better at Tropicana Field, hitting .368 in 38 at-bats at home. Brosseau has hit two homers at The Trop, and Sunday’s blast in the third inning was his first against a team other than the Orioles.
“Felt good at the plate,” Brosseau said. “Going up to that at-bat, I think he threw five pitches [in the inning] before that at-bat. I was trying to take a couple of pitches and try and lengthen out that inning a little bit and give Yonny [Chirinos] a little bit of rest. Just an 0-2 pitch that I kept my hands in, and luckily it worked out for us.”
The Rays extended their winning streak to six games, tying their season high. The hot streak comes at a good time for Tampa Bay, as Sunday’s game was the second of 21 straight through Aug. 25 in which it will play teams with losing records. The Rays are 33-14 against teams under .500 and hold the second American League Wild Card spot.
“We’re playing well,” Cash said. “It’s really encouraging.”
Other than Brosseau, the Rays weren’t able to get much going offensively against Marlins starter Caleb Smith, who allowed three runs over five innings. But their offense came alive in the seventh inning against Miami's bullpen.
Travis d’Arnaud added the fourth run on an RBI single, and Avisail Garcia separated the game with a two-run double off Tayron Guerrero to put the Rays ahead 6-1. Jesus Aguilar also continued to impress, putting together two 10-pitch at-bats, with the last one ending with a projected 446-foot solo home run in the eighth inning, his first homer with the Rays.
“Just tried to be on time,” Aguilar said. “Tried to hit the ball to the middle. Think I got lucky and hit a home run. Tried to get ready early, that’s the most important thing for me. Good things are going to happen, believe me. They’ve got a great group of guys here. I think this team has got a lot of things to do.”
Added Cash, “He’s had a bunch of nice ABs. He’s another guy that we talk about having a presence at the plate. I know the season hasn’t gone maybe as well as he’d like, but we’d certainly take a guy that can get hot the next two months and pick us up in some big ways.”
The seven runs marked the seventh consecutive game in which the Rays scored six or more, after they scored four or fewer in their previous 10 games.
“Our offense right out of the gate from Opening Day was really hot for a while,” Cash said. “You’re going to have some peaks and valleys in there. [Coaches] Chad [Mottola] and Ozzie [Timmons] do such a good job of instilling a consistent confidence in them and understanding that this game’s tough, and the offense isn’t always going to roll. They are certainly rolling really well right now.”
It was plenty of run support for Yonny Chirinos and Tampa Bay’s bullpen. After a rough outing in Toronto, Chirinos bounced back with a solid one, allowing just one run in five innings before being removed with right middle finger inflammation. The bullpen allowed a run in four innings to help secure the win.
“It’s been real fun,” Brosseau said. “Seems like everybody is clicking, and everybody is putting up good ABs up there at the plate. When our offense is clicking like that and our pitching is what it’s been all year, we’re a tough team to beat.”