Rally Rays do it again with 19th comeback victory of '24

Bradley earns win after notching career-high-tying 11 K's in seven-frame gem

June 14th, 2024

ST. PETERSBURG -- Lately, it seems every Rays win plays out in similar fashion. They put pressure on the opposing pitcher for an inning, maybe two, then go quiet. Their pitching keeps them in the game. Then, when the late innings roll around, they hit their stride.

“You can win games like that,” manager Kevin Cash said Thursday afternoon, “but I don’t think you can consistently win like that.”

But for now, as the Rays try to work their way out of last place in the American League East, late is better than never.

That was the case again for Tampa Bay on Thursday night. Down by two runs but still in the game thanks to a brilliant seven-inning start by , the Rays rallied for three runs in the seventh inning to secure a 3-2 win over the Cubs and a series victory at Tropicana Field.

It was the Rays’ 19th comeback win of the season, including their ninth after trailing by multiple runs. It was also their Major League-leading ninth win of the year when trailing after six innings. They overcame multirun deficits in both of their wins in this series -- as they were down, 2-0, before winning, 5-2, on Tuesday night -- and have come from behind in eight of their past nine victories.

“We need to change our recipe a little bit,” Cash quipped afterward, “but we'll take it tonight, for sure. … That was a big win for us to come from behind.”

Bradley was spectacular, striking out a career-high-tying 11 batters while allowing only three hits and two walks over a career-high-tying seven innings. A four-pitch pitcher, Bradley really only needed two to dominate the Cubs.

Of the career-high 104 pitches he threw, 52 were fastballs and 38 were splitters. He induced eight swinging strikes with his four-seamer and nine with his splitter, which finished eight of his strikeouts.

“Extremely impressive and definitely fun to catch,” said catcher Alex Jackson. “He was just coming after guys, and when he's able to attack the zone and get guys to swing at stuff, the results speak for themselves.”

Yet Bradley was in line for a hard-luck loss when he walked off the mound, as the Cubs scratched across two unearned runs on a bizarre sequence of three consecutive bunts in the fifth inning. Meanwhile, the Rays had been shut down by Cubs starter Justin Steele for six innings.

But their lineup finally stirred from its slumber against reliever Mark Leiter Jr. in the seventh.

“We just needed to take their starting pitcher out of there, and I think we were able to take advantage of that,” Yandy Díaz said through interpreter Manny Navarro.

Amed Rosario led off the inning with an infield single and wound up on second base when third baseman Patrick Wisdom threw the ball wide of first base. Jose Siri walked, and pinch-hitter Josh Lowe drove in Rosario with a one-out single to left field on a two-strike sinker away and out of the zone.

“The big thing was just trying to stay in the moment, get a good pitch and just hit it wherever it's pitched instead of trying to yank it or do too much,” Lowe said.

Lowe stole second, then Siri trotted home and hopped on the plate when he scored the tying run on Ben Rortvedt’s groundout to second base. Up came Díaz, who lined a 1-1 splitter to center to put the Rays ahead.

The ball was still in the air, sailing toward the turf in center field, when Díaz started pumping his right fist by his side. After an uncharacteristically sluggish start, the All-Star first baseman has hit .286/.361/.349 with eight walks during a 16-game on-base streak, and he’s gone 12-for-30 during a seven-game hitting streak, with multiple hits in five of his past six.

“We've said now for a couple of days it looks like he's starting to do some things more Yandy-ish at the plate where he's getting hits,” Cash said. “And that was a big one.”

But the Rays may have saved their best for last.

With one out and a runner on first in the ninth inning, Nico Hoerner smashed a ground ball up the middle. Praised by Cash for his “game-changing” defense a night earlier, shortstop Taylor Walls made a diving stop then flipped the ball out of his glove to second baseman Brandon Lowe to begin a sensational, game-ending double play.

“I'm still trying to process it, honestly,” Josh Lowe said. “That was incredible.”

“That was probably the best play ever made against me,” Hoerner added. “That was more than game-changing. It was game-ending.”