Hitless in his last 21 at bats, a big slump did not stop Tampa Bays’ Corey Dickerson as his three-run eighth inning blast to straightaway center field was the difference on Thursday night as the Rays defeated the Cleveland Indians by a 4-1 final.
The Indians and Rays were tied at one heading into the final frames of the night when Tampa mounted its game-winning rally against Cleveland reliever Nick Goody. On in relief of Bryan Shaw after one and two-thirds innings of one-hit relief work, Goody struck out Brad Miller to start the inning before a single by Adeiny Hechavarria dropped in front of Abraham Almonte in left for a one-out hit. With Mallex Smith at the plate, Hechavarria stole second and moved up to third as the throw from Yan Gomes sailed off of the glove of shortstop Francisco Lindor, putting the go-ahead run at third base. Smith would twice pop up the ball in foul territory on bunt attempts, including a two-strike offering that recorded the second out of the inning. Jesus Sucre was plunked on the left arm by a pitch to put runners on the corners for Dickerson, who sent his first offering just over the glove of a leaping Bradley Zimmer in center field for the decisive three-run shot.
Alex Colome worked an easy ninth, retiring Jose Ramirez and Edwin Encarnacion on grounders in the infield before striking out Carlos Santana swinging to end it.
The Rays (59-57) kept themselves close in the AL Wild Card race, while the Indians (60-52) dropped a second straight game on a late inning homer. A St. Louis win over Kansas City kept the club’s lead in the AL Central at four games.
The Indians scored a run in the top of the first inning off of left-hander Blake Snell before the offense returned to hibernation. Lindor doubled to start the game and moved to third on a grounder by Jason Kipnis. Ramirez legged out a tough infield single to third, scoring Lindor for the Tribe’s first and only run of the night. Encarnacion ended the inning with a double play ball to short.
Snell would retire the side in order in the second and third before running into trouble again in the fourth. Kipnis led off the inning with a ground rule double to left and Encarnacion walked with one out. Santana grounded into a force at second, leaving runners on the corners for Austin Jackson, who worked a walk to load the bases. With a big opportunity in front of him, Brandon Guyer struck out looking on a 1-2 pitch to leave the bags juiced.
Tampa Bay had its own opportunities against Cleveland starter Danny Salazar, but could not strike through for damage against him in the early innings. Evan Longoria was stranded in the first after a two-out single. Miller walked with one out in the second and Smith followed with a two-out single to right to put runners on the corners before Salazar struck out Sucre swinging. The Ray would strand two more in the third as Lucas Duda walked with one out and moved to second on a two-out single by Logan Morrison before Steven Souza Jr. flied out to left. The same would happen in the fourth, when Miller started the inning with a walk off of Salazar and moved to second with a two-out single by Sucre, but Dickerson struck out looking to leave a pair.
The Rays got on the board in the bottom of the fifth to tie the game up. Duda walked to start the inning and moved to second on a single by Longoria. Morrison hit one towards the gap in right to score Duda, tying the game at one each. With runners on the corners and still nobody out, Salazar came back to strike out Souza for the first out before getting a double play ball up the middle by Miller to retire the side.
Salazar started the sixth, but exited after a one-out single from Smith. Shaw retired the side before his replacement Goody would give up the game-winning hit.
Snell pitched into the seventh before getting the hook by manager Kevin Cash. Jackson reached safely with a one-out triple on a ball misplayed in the outfield by the Rays, giving the Indians a prime opportunity to reclaim the lead with one out. Instead, former Indians reliever Tommy Hunter got newly acquired pinch-hitter Jay Bruce to pop to short for the second out and got Gomes swinging to leave a key run standing at third base. He would return for the eighth, setting the side down in order and putting himself in position for the win.
Colume’s save was his 34th of the season.
Salazar had a tougher time against the Rays in his shortest start since returning from the disabled list. He fired 103 pitches in five and one-third innings, giving up seven hits and four walks while striking out eight in his third no-decision since his return from the disabled list.
The Indians may have suffered another blow in their defeat. While Bruce was able to make his debut for the club to strengthen the lineup, Kipnis exited the game with right hamstring tightness.
Cleveland will look to get back into the win column on Friday night in the second game of the four-game set in Tampa Bay. The Indians will turn to right-hander Carlos Carrasco (10-5, 4.06 ERA), who will look to end his five-game winless stretch. The Rays will bring rookie right-hander Jacob Faria (5-2, 2.81) to the mound. He took a tough loss his last time out, allowing a run on four hits with two walks and nine strikeouts in six innings against Milwaukee.
First pitch Friday night is scheduled for 7:10 PM ET from Tropicana Field.
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