'We’re pretty lethal': Rays roll with 10-run 6th

July 29th, 2021

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays put together their biggest inning in 13 years to punctuate one of the most lopsided victories in franchise history on Thursday afternoon, riding a 10-run sixth inning to a 14-0 win over the Yankees at Tropicana Field.

Tampa Bay sent 15 men to the plate, saw 68 pitches from three different pitchers, piled on eight hits and three walks and hit three homers in the sixth inning. It was the Rays’ highest-scoring inning since they put up 10 runs in the fifth against the Marlins on June 25, 2008, and the highlight of the most lopsided shutout victory in franchise history.

“Innings like that, games like that are few and far between throughout the course of a season,” said outfielder , who launched his first career grand slam during the 10-run outburst. “That's what makes baseball so fun right there.”

The Rays have only won two games by a greater margin than this one: a 16-1 win against the Yankees on April 19, 2014, and a 17-2 romp over the Orioles on Sept. 5, 2007. They couldn’t have scripted a much better way to end their three-game losing streak heading into a huge series against the American League East-leading Red Sox this weekend.

“The energy is up,” Phillips said. “I feel like [after] a game like that, we've got some momentum going into the next series with Boston coming into town.”

First, they jumped out to a big lead against Yankees ace Gerrit Cole before he could even settle into the game. Brandon Lowe reached on a leadoff single, Ji-Man Choi walked, Yandy Díaz hit an RBI single, then slugged the first of his two home runs out to right-center to make it a 4-0 game four batters in. Just like that, the Rays’ lineup found the big hits that had gone missing in a pair of low-scoring losses the previous two nights.

“We kind of fell short the last couple of nights, and tonight the guys made sure that that didn't happen,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said.

Cole found his form after that, retiring 16 of the next 17 hitters he faced, but Rays right-hander outdueled him every step of the way. Making his second start since being given a chance to prove himself in the rotation, Patiño allowed only three hits and two walks while striking out a career-high eight over six dazzling innings, the longest start of his career.

“Phenomenal is a good word. So, so impressive,” Cash said. “The poise that he showed making big pitch after big pitch, the strike-throwing, the commitment to the zone with the fastball and the slider … you’re not going to see many better outings than that against that lineup.”

Recording a career-best 19 swinging strikes, including 12 on his electric four-seam fastball, Patiño became the youngest Rays pitcher to beat the Yankees since a 21-year-old Scott Kazmir did so in 2005. Patiño retired 14 of the last 16 batters he faced, including 10 in a row between the second and fifth innings, and rewarded the Rays’ faith in him with an outing that showed his full potential.

“The manager and the pitching coach having confidence in me [made] me a little bit more aggressive out there,” Patiño said through interpreter Manny Navarro. “I got the confidence that I needed with that.”

What the Rays’ lineup did after that almost turned the 21-year-old righty’s gem -- impressive and important as it was -- into a secondary storyline, though.

The inning began with Cole retiring Díaz on a groundout. Then 11 straight Rays reached safely, relentlessly rounding the bases as they put together a double-digit inning for just the sixth time in franchise history.

“I've never seen that, personally. I’ve never seen 11 straight, I don’t think, in my career,” Meadows said. “So that was pretty special. … That was a huge inning for us.”

Tampa Bay loaded the bases on a pair of singles by Meadows and Randy Arozarena and a walk by Wander Franco. Kevin Kiermaier hit a fly ball to left field that Brett Gardner dropped, allowing two runs to score. The Yankees summoned right-hander Albert Abreu from the bullpen, only for him to walk Mike Zunino before serving up Phillips’ first slam since he hit one for Triple-A Colorado Springs in 2017.

“It's exciting. I'm glad that it was able to contribute to a team win,” Phillips said. “Yeah, I'm floating pretty good right now.”

As Phillips trotted toward home plate, Franco stood waiting and extended his arms, mimicking Phillips’ famous airplane celebration after Game 4 of the 2020 World Series. (“I liked his form,” Phillips said, though noting he reserves that move for walk-off wins.) But the Rays weren’t done yet.

After Lowe walked, Choi crushed his seventh home run of the season out to right field and Meadows soon followed with his second homer of the afternoon. New York manager Aaron Boone went to his bullpen again, calling on right-hander Sal Romano, who gave up a double to Arozarena before finally recording the second out of the inning against the 13th batter Tampa Bay sent to the plate.

“It’s just kind of incredible, laughable in a good way,” Meadows said. “For us to do that just shows how good we are, how good we can be. Especially when guys are hot -- hitting’s contagious -- we’re pretty lethal out there. I think we showed that today.”