Stat of the Day: Zunino plays small ball

September 19th, 2021

MLB.com is keeping track of a Stat of the Day for the Rays this season, highlighting a unique, interesting or fun nugget from each game.

Sept. 19: Tigers 2, Rays 0 -- Zunino plays small ball
Catcher Mike Zunino had three of the Rays’ five hits on Sunday, tying his season high. It was a rarity for the power-hitting Zunino, though, because all three were singles. It was only the second time in his career he has recorded three hits that were all singles, joining July 26, 2015, when he was with the Mariners. He has 65 hits overall this season, and just 22 of them are singles. Zunino has compiled 31 homers, 10 doubles and two triples, and 10 of his previous 12 hits had gone for extra bases.

Sept. 18: Tigers 4, Rays 3 -- Close calls go wrong way
The Rays are likely only a few days away from clinching a trip to the postseason and their second straight American League East title, but they could have locked up both quicker if a few tight games had gone their way. Consider this: Tampa Bay is 18-22 in one-run games this season, and its last six losses at home have come by a combined 11 runs. In most of those cases, including Saturday's loss, one timely hit could have made the difference. The Rays went 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position vs. the Tigers, and they are batting just .162 with runners in scoring position in their 57 losses this year.

Sept. 17: Rays 7, Tigers 4 (10 innings) -- Meadows hits 100
Austin Meadows lofted a first-inning sacrifice fly to right field that scored Ji-Man Choi. It was Meadows' 100th RBI of the season, marking just the 11th time in club history a player has reached that number -- and the first since Evan Longoria drove in 104 runs in 2010. Only five other players have driven in 100 runs in a season for the Rays: Carlos Peña, Jorge Cantu, Aubrey Huff, Fred McGriff and Longoria. Forty-two of Meadows' RBIs have either tied the game or given the Rays the lead this season.

Sept. 16: Rays 5, Tigers 2 -- Enns can 'catch,' too
Left-hander Dietrich Enns earned his second career win after allowing just one run in four innings as the Rays' "bulk" pitcher against the Tigers. He has allowed one run over his past three outings, spanning 11 innings, after giving up seven runs (six earned) in his first four appearances. Enns also joined a small class of Tampa Bay pitchers in his outing against the Tigers by catching runners attempting to steal second base in the second and third innings. (Both plays went 1-3-4, from Enns to Jordan Luplow to Brandon Lowe. And both were called from the bench by Major League field coordinator Paul Hoover.) It was just the third time in Rays history that a pitcher has caught two baserunners in a game, with Enns joining Drew Smyly (Sept. 13, 2015, against the Red Sox) and Wilson Alvarez (May 4, 1999, against the Royals).

Sept. 15: Blue Jays 6, Rays 3 -- Zunino hits his 30th HR
Mike Zunino launched his 30th home run of the season to left field in the fifth inning against American League Cy Young Award candidate Robbie Ray, making him just the third AL catcher since 2001 to hit 30 homers in a season while playing the position. The last two to accomplish that feat, which seems likely to be matched this season by the Royals' Salvador Perez, were Mitch Garver (30) in '19 and Jorge Posada (30) in '03. Zunino's 30th blast was a 106.6 mph solo shot that came with a 45-degree launch angle, tied for the Rays' second-highest homer of the season. The backstop also owns the highest launch angle of the year, at 48 degrees, and had another 45-degree blast in June. Zunino is the first player with three different 45-degree (or higher) homers under Statcast tracking going back to 2015.

Sept. 14: Rays 2, Blue Jays 0 -- Another 90-win season
The Rays became the first team in the American League to win 90 games this season. (They were previously the first team to win 30, 40, 70 and 80 games.) This is the eighth time in franchise history the Rays have put together a 90-win season, with all eight coming since 2008. This season, only three other teams have a chance to reach 90 wins for the eighth time since '08: the Dodgers (nine, including this season), the Yankees (seven) and the Red Sox (seven). Tampa Bay has held sole possession of the AL's best record for 63 days this season, including 41 straight since the end of play on Aug. 6.

Sept. 13: Blue Jays 8, Rays 1 -- McHugh flourishing as opener
Right-hander Collin McHugh held up his end of the bargain as the Rays’ opener in Toronto, pitching 2 1/3 scoreless innings. He has worked 11 shutout innings while allowing only five hits and a walk during his six assignments as Tampa Bay’s opener this season -- a role he could very well return to in October. But the Rays fell apart against the streaking Blue Jays after that, losing for only the sixth time in 18 games this year when using an opener. Overall, the Rays are 77-49 since the debut of the opener on May 19, 2018.

Sept. 12: Tigers 8, Rays 7 (11 innings) -- Cruz heating up for Rays
Nelson Cruz put the Rays on the board in the fourth inning with his 31st home run of the season. The knock increased his hitting streak to nine games. He has hits in 10 of his past 11 contests, and he owns a .303 career average in 122 games against the Tigers.

Sept. 11: Rays 7, Tigers 2 -- Kiermaier keeps foot on the gas
Kevin Kiermaier has built a career around highlight-reel-worthy catches and fleet feet to make them happen. He isn't slowing much with age, either: Kiermaier legged out a double in the fourth inning at a 30.6 ft./sec. sprint speed. In addition to eclipsing MLB's 30 ft./sec. "elite" threshold, Kiermaier's speed was his fastest this season, and it came at nearly 1 ft./sec. faster than his season average of 29.7.

Sept. 10: Tigers 10, Rays 4 -- Choi cranking out hits
Pinch-hitter Ji-Man Choi's bases-clearing double in the seventh inning gave Tampa Bay a big boost in the series opener. Choi has hits in eight of his past 10 games (in which he has had at least one at-bat), and he has 10 RBIs during that stretch. Friday's game marked Choi's fifth this season with three or more RBIs and his first since July 24 against Cleveland.

Sept. 8: Red Sox 2, Rays 1 -- Wander extends streak
Wander Franco had his second straight 0-for night on Wednesday, going hitless in his first three at-bats against the Red Sox at Fenway Park. But he nonetheless extended his on-base streak to 38 games by working a two-out walk against Garrett Richards in the eighth inning. Franco's on-base streak is the longest active one in the Majors, the longest one overall this season, the longest in American League history by a player under the age of 21 and the second-longest in AL/NL history by a player 20 years or younger. With his walk against Richards, Franco surpassed Chico Carrasquel in 1950 to set the longest on-base streak in the modern era (since 1900) for a rookie shortstop, regardless of age. During this streak, Franco has more hits (48) than swinging strikes (45).

Sept. 7: Rays 12, Red Sox 7 -- Cruz, Zunino a dynamic duo
Nelson Cruz went 4-for-5 with two homers, four RBIs, a double and three runs in the Rays' win over the Red Sox. Mike Zunino finished the night 3-for-4 with two homers, four RBIs, a triple and two runs scored. They became just the second duo to record at least two homers and at least four RBIs in the same game at Fenway Park, joining Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris, who did so for the Yankees in a 12-3 win over the Red Sox in Boston on May 30, 1961.

Sept. 6: Rays 11, Red Sox 10 (10 innings) -- Comeback is a first
After the second inning, the Rays were behind the Red Sox by six runs, 7-1. Tampa Bay had been 0-70 -- 0-69 in the regular season and 0-1 in the postseason -- when trailing Boston by six runs or more. But the Rays came back to secure their Major League-leading 43rd come-from-behind win of the season by scoring five runs from the seventh inning on. That gave them an MLB-leading 273 runs in the seventh inning or later this season.

Sept. 5: Twins 6, Rays 5 -- B-Lowe's hot streak
It came in a losing effort, but second baseman Brandon Lowe continued his torrid stretch offensively. Lowe's two-run homer off Griffin Jax was his 33rd of the season, tied for seventh most in Rays history and the most by a Tampa Bay player since Austin Meadows hit 33 in 2019. Lowe has hit three homers in his last seven games and 10 in his last 27, batting .294 with 26 RBIs during that stretch. Since June 11, a day he entered batting just .188 with a .658 OPS, Lowe is hitting .271 with a .987 OPS in 71 games.

Sept. 4: Rays 11, Twins 4 -- Enns' record-setting save
Left-hander Dietrich Enns pitched three scoreless innings to record his first career save in the Rays' win over the Twins. Enns became the 13th different Tampa Bay pitcher to record a save this season, breaking the MLB record previously held by the 2020 Rays and the 1973 Rangers. Saves became an official statistic in 1969. Since the All-Star break, the Rays have 14 saves coming from 10 different pitchers.

"It's a credit to all those guys. It's a credit to just the amount of quality pitchers that we know that we can rely on in different save situations," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "We're fortunate that we've got so many quality pitchers. Our front office organization has done such a good job of developing and acquiring guys that we have confidence to throw out there in those roles. So good for all of them, everybody that's kind of played a hand in that. That's pretty special."

Sept. 3: Rays 5, Twins 3 -- Rays dominating at Trop
The Rays' series-opening win improved their record at Tropicana Field to 44-25. That impressive mark includes a 37-13 stretch since May 13, and in those 50 games, they've outscored their opponents by a combined 130 runs (284-154). They haven't been swept at home, regardless of series length, since April 19-21, 2019. No other team in the Majors has gone as long since being swept at home.

Sept. 2: Red Sox 4, Rays 0 -- Rare losing streak
The Rays split their four-game series against the Red Sox by losing back-to-back games for the first time since Aug. 14-15 in Minnesota, a stretch of 14 games between consecutive defeats. It was the first time Tampa Bay lost consecutive home games since Aug. 2-3 against Seattle and only its fourth losing streak overall (three of two games, one of three games) since dropping five straight from June 27-July 3.

Sept. 1: Red Sox 3, Rays 2 -- Franco extends on-base streak
Wander Franco's two-run homer off Red Sox ace Chris Sale extended his on-base streak to 32 games, the longest active streak in the Majors and tied for the fifth-longest streak in Rays history. It is the longest such streak since Tommy Pham's club-record 48-gamer from Aug. 21, 2018-April 16, 2019, and tied for the fourth-longest single-season streak since Pham (32) from Aug. 21-Sept. 30, 2018. Franco is batting .320 with four homers and 25 RBIs during the streak, has hit safely in 14 of his last 15 games and has only struck out twice in his last 72 plate appearances dating back to Aug. 13.