DETROIT, Mich. — The scuffling Tampa Bay Rays are desperately trying to hold on to a playoff spot, and it was imperative that they started their seven-day, six-game road trip on a good note Thursday night at Comerica Park.
They did just that, with Brandon Lowe and Randy Arozarena having big days at the plate and pitcher Jeffrey Springs returning to his fine form from a month ago in an impressive 6-2 win over the Tigers.
Lowe, the Rays’ second baseman who missed two months of the season earlier with a back injury, went 3-for-5 and opened the scoring with a two-run homer in the third. Arozarena was 4-for-5 and drove in two runs himself.
“It’s nice to swing the bat and not hurt,” said Lowe, who returned on July 16 and has hit .339 with three homers and seven RBIs since then. “I didn’t realize how debilitating it had been until the pain wasn’t there any more.”
Arozarena had four hits for Tampa Bay, which won back-to-back games for the first time since the All-Star break.
“Randy and Brandon are two guys that, when they get going, they can do a lot of damage in a hurry, and that’s what we saw tonight,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “Brandon looks comfortable in the box and he’s covering a lot of pitches right now. He’s a special hitter, an All-Star caliber hitter. It’s nice to have a guy who can knock the ball out of the park and helping us get runs in bunches.”
Rays starter Jeffrey Springs came up big, too. It’s been a rough month for him, dealing with a hospitalized newborn baby and a calf injury. He had a 1.45 ERA on June 15, but then gave up three runs or more in four of five starts through all the family drama in mild injury.
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Things are back to normal at hime, and he was his usual self on the mound, too. He pitched six innings and gave up just two unearned runs — and just four hits — in his best start in a while. The unearned runs came after consecutive errors by the usually sure-handed Yandy Diaz at third base in the third inning that tied the game at 2-2.
Springs took the errors in stride after the win.
“We have a really good defense and that’s very uncharacteristic,” Springs said. “They make plays day in and day out and it makes our job easier. I just kept making pitches and tried to keep them off-balance. I would have been happy if they hit 99 of the next 100 balls at Yandy. I hated giving up the lead, but I just kept trying to get outs the best way I can.
The Rays went back ahead in the fourth inning, scoring twice after two outs. Catcher Christian Bethancourt singled and then Diaz reached on an error by Detroit shortstop Javier Baez, his 17th of the season, an MLB high. Lowe singled to right to drive in Bethancourt, and then Diaz scored on a wild pitch to make it 4-2.
They tacked on a run in the seventh when Arozarena drove in Isaac Paredes, who had walked, with an RBI single. They got one more in the ninth when Arozarena doubled, driving in Ji-Man Choi.
“Randy had some good at-bats early, but the two at the end were huge because it gave us a little breathing room,” Cash said.
With the win, the Rays are now 56-49 on the season, holding down the No. 6 spots, three games behind Toronto and a half-game behind Seattle in the American League wild-card race. They are two games ahead of Cleveland and Baltimore for the final spot, and three games ahead of Chicago, and four up on Boston.
The Rays and Tigers meet again on Friday night, with Tampa Bay’s Corey Kluber (7-6, 4.03) facing Detroit’s Bryan Garcia (0-0, 4.91).