Happy flight: Rays ride 4 early runs to win in rubber game

April 10th, 2024

ANAHEIM -- The Rays' first road trip of the season featured a mix of highs and lows, but they managed to end it on a high note.

José Caballero homered, and scored together on a wild pitch and the Rays beat the Los Angeles Angels 4-2 on Wednesday afternoon to conclude a six-game road trip. The Rays went 4-2 on their road swing and return home to begin a three-game series against the San Francisco Giants on Friday.

The Rays showed a promising hint of resilience throughout their trip against the Rockies and Angels, dropping the first game of each series in disheartening fashion before bouncing back to win both. In the opener against the Rockies, closer Pete Fairbanks surrendered a walkoff grand slam to Ryan McMahon. In the series opener against the Angels, starter Zach Eflin got shelled as they fell behind early and never recovered.

In each case, they rebounded to win the next two games.

“I think that speaks volumes about our club,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “That we can get frustrated and irritated losing that first game but we're able to show the ability to bounce right back.”

In the rubber match against the Angels on Wednesday, the Rays scored three runs in the first inning off Angels starter José Soriano and never looked back. Díaz, Arozarena and Richie Palacios opened the game with back-to-back-to-back singles to immediately load the bases in the top of the first. Soriano bounced a 95.1 mph fastball past catcher Matt Thaiss for a wild pitch and Thaiss couldn’t find the ball, allowing two runs to score as Arozarena bolted in behind Díaz from second base.

Isaac Paredes followed with a sacrifice fly to give the Rays a 3-0 lead just four batters in. Caballero added a leadoff home run in the second inning -- his first homer as a Ray -- to extend his on-base streak to 11 games and give the Rays some additional breathing room.

“It feels good,” Caballero said. “It feels good to get that homer, the first one with the Rays. I'm happy I could connect on that ball and it went out of the park."

Caballero also shined with a pair of run-saving defensive plays at shortstop. With a runner on second and two outs in the third inning, he made a diving stop up the middle, spun around and fired a perfect throw to first to rob Miguel Sanó of a run-scoring hit. The very next inning with the same setup, Caballero made a diving stop to his right, got up and fired a one-hopper that Diaz picked out of the dirt to rob Luis Rengifo of an RBI of his own.

“Really good day,” Cash said. “We won that ballgame because of his efforts on defense.”

Caballero’s defense was especially needed with Rays right-hander having an off day.

Littell walked the bases loaded in the first inning in an uncharacteristic display of wildness. He walked only two batters total in his first two starts, but exceeded that total in his first four batters, threatening to squander the first-inning lead his offense gave him.

But after a meeting on the mound with pitching coach Kyle Snyder, Littell rebounded to strike out Miguel Sanó looking and Brandon Drury swinging to escape the inning unscathed.

“I didn't feel like I was spraying the ball all over the place,” Littell said. “I think they put together some really nice at-bats … and just made me work. And so [Snyder] comes out and says ‘Let's get in the zone.’ If I'm gonna get beat, let's make them beat me. So yeah, that was just really getting back to that game plan.”

Littell also allowed runners to reach scoring position in the third, fourth and fifth innings, but Caballero’s defense bailed him out twice and reliever Kevin Kelly entered to strand a pair of runners in the fifth. Littell finished with 4 1/3 innings, six hits and one run allowed, three walks and four strikeouts.

Kelly earned the win after allowing a run in 1 2/3 innings of relief.

Fairbanks, who was at the center of the lowest point of the road trip in Colorado, struck out the side in the ninth to end it on a high note.