The Tampa Bay Rays needed a stopper. Not an opener, not a closer, but a stopper. And they looked to Charlie Morton to be the man to help end their four-game slide.
And stop the losing streak he did, as the Rays got another Little League home run, this one off the bat of Austin Meadows, and received timely hitting from Avisail Garcia and Ji-Man Choi in a 4-0 victory over the Detroit Tigers Wednesday night.
If the team ever needed a feel-good win and a shot of confidence, it got one because of Morton, who pitched seven strong innings, throwing only 85 pitches, allowing five hits, and striking out eight. Morton did not allow a walk in lowering his ERA to 2.30.
The Rays got the only run they would need in the top of the third. Austin Meadows hit a ball deep into the right-centerfield gap, and running hard from the start, advanced to third with a triple. The throw to third got away from Tigers third baseman Dawel Lugo, and Meadows scored on the error, giving the Rays a 1-0 lead.
The Tigers mounted their only threat off Morton, now 7-0, in their half of the fourth as Brandon Dixon and Harold Castro started a two-out rally with back-to-back singles. Castro stole second, putting two runners in scoring position, but Morton got John Hicks on a called third strike to end the threat.
The Tigers only had one runner reach base the rest of the game, that being a two-out single by shortstop Niko Goodrum with two out in the fifth.
In the top of the fifth, Garcia doubled home Diaz, who had walked with one out, then Choi followed up with a run-scoring single to give the Rays a 3-0 lead. The Rays and Morton finally had some breathing room, something the Rays haven't had since their last win, a 14-3 victory over the Twins last Thursday.
The Rays also threatened in the sixth, loading the bases with two out, but Brandon Lowe popped out to end the inning. The team left 12 runners on base, continuing a season-long trend.
They scored their final run in the eighth, as Guillermo Heredia, pinch-running for Christian Arroyo, scored on what should have been a double-play ball hit by Yandy Diaz. However, the throw to first from Tigers second baseman Castro sailed wide of first base.
With the win, the Rays picked up a full game on the first-place New York Yankees, who lost their second straight game in Toronto to the Blue Jays, 11-7. The Rays are now 1.5 games behind the Yankees.
*Tommy Pham expects to be in the lineup for Thursday's matinee against Detroit.
*The Rays are expected to open with Ryan Stanek (0-1, 2.78 ERA), while the Tigers will counter whomever the Rays start with Daniel Norris (2-4, 4.58 ERA). First pitch is scheduled for 1:10.