The win also gives the Rays nine consecutive wins over the Marlins, setting a new franchise record.
Let’s take a look at three keys to how the Rays got there on Friday.
• Box score
Though losing Mike Zunino to a left oblique injury hurt the Rays, it also opened up an opportunity for Michael Perez to get more playing time. And so far, the 28-year-old has taken full advantage of it, especially when the team needs him the most.
Perez was responsible for two go-ahead hits against the Yankees earlier this season, and his solo home run against the Orioles on Aug. 26 helped the Rays come out on top. On Friday, Perez delivered a bases-clearing double to give the Rays a 5-2 lead in the fourth.
“That was a big one,” said Rays manager Kevin Cash. “When you go back and look at the highlight reel, it was a pretty good pitch, well located and down and away. Good for Mikey to stay on it, get the barrel to it, and he really drove it out.”
This season, when Perez comes up to the plate with the game tied, he is 6-for-15 with a homer and seven RBIs. With two outs and runners in scoring position, Perez is 3-for-9 with five RBIs.
“I would like to have more moments just like that with people on base,” Perez said. “I just try and stay as calm as possible and try to do that in every at-bat.”
“They started making me work harder,” said Marlins starter Pablo López about the fourth inning. “They were taking good pitches and forcing me to throw in the strike zone when I was behind in the count. They were taking good at-bats and putting the ball in play. They took a couple of walks, and then, 2-1 count with the bases loaded. I had to put the ball in the zone, and the guy put the barrel on it.”
Tsutsugo heating up
Yoshi Tsutsugo’s Major League career hasn’t started out exactly how the Japanese slugger would’ve liked, but he’s starting to show signs of the player that Tampa Bay felt comfortable enough to sign to a two-year, $6 million deal in the offseason.
In the second inning, Tsutsugo hit his sixth homer of the season, sending a solo shot over the left-center-field fence off Pablo López, who entered Friday’s game having allowed just one home run all season.
Tsutsugo’s numbers have been much better now that he’s facing teams for a second time. In his past eight games, the outfielder is hitting .368 (7-for-19) with three home runs.
“I think he’s getting there,” Cash said. “I think we all came in with the expectation that it was going to take a little bit of time for him to get comfortable. I’m guessing he’s probably frustrated to date, but there’s plenty of time to turn this around. The quality of at-bats have started to really get good. … The more that we can get his bat going, the better we’re going to be. It just makes us that much deeper, and we’ll continue to get him out there and try to get that timing where it needs to be.”
Despite the stellar play over the past month, the Rays are still hoping to get healthier in the bullpen over the next couple of weeks. The Stable — which is what Tampa Bay’s bullpen has been affectionately referred to after Cash’s comments earlier this week — got one of its top horses back on Friday in Nick Anderson.
• Phillips makes Rays debut; Anderson returns
Anderson recorded his fourth save of the season with a scoreless ninth, capping off four solid innings from the Tampa Bay bullpen. Ryan Thompson, Pete Fairbanks, Diego Castillo and Anderson combined to strike out six and allow just one hit.
“It feels great having Anderson back. He’s one of our key pitchers, and I’m happy for him,” Perez said about Anderson. “He did a good job in his first game back [from the injured list]. It feels good to have him back.”
Blake Snell and the Rays continue their three-game series against the Marlins on Saturday at 6:40 p.m. ET at Tropicana Field. In his last start against the Fish on Aug. 30, Snell allowed two runs and struck out five over five innings. The Rays are 5-2 in games started by Snell this season. The game will be televised on FOX Sports Sun and MLB.TV.