While the Tampa Bay Rays are only three games above .500 at home, they were a major-league best 16 games above .500 on the road entering Monday night's game in San Diego against the Padres. They also carried a season-best seven-game road winning streak into the game, and they improved on each of those stats as they defeated the Padres 10-4.
With the win, the Rays moved to 20 games over .500 for the first time since 2013, and extended their lead for the second wild card spot in the American League to two games over the idle Oakland A's, but lost a half game to the Yankees in the AL East standings, as the Bronx Bombers swept the Orioles in a Monday doubleheader. Tampa Bay is two games behind the wild-card-leading Minnesota Twins.
The game was tight through six innings, with the Rays holding a 3-2 lead going into the seventh, but the Rays broke open the game over the next two innings, with perhaps the highlight of the scoring being an RBI infield single by Rays' reliever Oliver Drake in the top of the eighth, which drove in the Rays' final run.
The Rays took an early 2-0 lead in the first inning, as after a one-out walk to Travis d'Arnaud, Avisail Garcia blasted a two-out 2-run homer to left on the first pitch he saw off Padres' starter Joey Lucchesi.
The Padres cut the lead in half in the bottom of the first on a two-out double by Eric Hosmer off Rays' opener Diego Castillo, driving in Fernando Tatis Jr., who reached on a Matt Duffy error leading off the inning. They then tied the score in the second on an RBI single by Lucchesi, who before the at-bat was 2-for-35 on the season. That was Lucchesi's first RBI.
The Rays certainly flashed the leather with multiple plays by Willy Adames, who is having a gold glove season at shortstop. In the second, he ranged back of shortstop on a two-out pop-up by Manny Machado, and snagged a one-hander with his back to home plate.
Then in the fourth, a grounder by Manuel Margot went off the glove of third baseman Duffy and deflected to Adames, who was moving to his right. Adames grabbed the deflection and fired a strike to Jesus Aguilar at first to nail Margot by a step.
Kevin Kiermaier also showed why he is the best defensive centerfielder in the game, taking a home run away from Padres' catcher Francisco Mejia as he crashed into the wall at full speed with two out in the eighth. Kiermaier was down for a couple of minutes, but after the game, Rays' manager Kevin Cash said Kiermaier is okay, but a little sore.
Duffy, who went 4-for-4, broke the game open for the Rays in the seventh, as his two-run single off Padres' reliever Trey Wingenter extended the lead to 6-2.
The Rays added four more in the eighth on balls that did not leave the infield: a Travis d'Arnaud groundout with the bases loaded, a fielder's choice by Aguilar, and a wild pitch by San Diego reliever Carl Edwards Jr. Drake's infield hit came off San Diego's fifth pitcher of the night, Matt Strahm.
San Diego infielder Ian Kinsler owned the ninth inning as he pitched a scoreless ninth, and added a two-run homer in the bottom of the inning to provide the final score.
*The Rays have MLB's best road record at 39-22. They would be 37-14 if they did not have to travel to Yankee Stadium.
*Austin Pruitt picked up his second win of the season and improved his record to 2-0. Lucchesi took his seventh loss and is now 7-7.
*The eighth straight road win for the Rays ties a team record.
*Tuesday night's game is scheduled for 10:10 p.m. and will feature Brendan McKay (2-2 4.55 ERA) going up against San Diego lefty Eric Lauer (6-8, 4.51 ERA).