ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Wil Myers must be thinking this is easy — or least fun.
The Tampa Bay Rays improved to 28-9 since the rookie outfielder was called up on June 18 with a 5-2 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks on Tuesday night.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” said Myers, who contributed a fine running catch, two walks and a single that extended his hitting streak to 11 games. “We’re doing everything we need to do. We’re pitching well, we’re hitting well, we’re getting timely hits, and our bullpen’s coming in and shutting the door.”
The bullpen wasn’t needed Tuesday night. Roberto Hernandez came within one out of a shutout, and Yunel Escobar and Ben Zobrist drove in two runs each for the Rays, who have won 21 of 25 games this month.
Hernandez (6-11) opened the game by hitting Gerardo Parra with a pitch and giving up a single to Aaron Hill. He then retired 22 of the next 25 batters he faced before Parra singled leading off the ninth. Eric Chavez ended Hernandez’s shutout bid with a two-out home run off the right-field foul pole.
Chavez’s ninth home run was one of only five hits off Hernandez, who struck out six and walked one in his first complete game of the season. It was the seventh complete game thrown by the Rays this month, the most by any team in a calendar month since the Philadelphia Phillies had seven in 1999.
“The only trouble he had was the two-out homer in the ninth inning,” said Rays manager Joe Maddon. “Otherwise he was pretty clean.”
The veteran right-hander is the closest the Rays have had to a hard-luck pitcher during their charge to the top of the AL East. He is 2-5 in his last eight starts.
“Today I controlled, threw strikes, kept the ball down, made a lot of ground balls,” Hernandez said. “Whenever I go to the mound, I never think about what happened (previously). I think about today.”
And that’s the way it’s been almost every day since Myers arrived.
“They’ve thrown the ball well for a month now,” said Myers, who is hitting .331. “We feel like we’re going to be in every single game, which gives us a lot of confidence to play.”
Zobrist and James Loney drove in runs in the first inning off Arizona starter Ian Kennedy, and Escobar made it 3-0 with his eighth home run in the fourth inning.
Making his 10th straight unsuccessful attempt for his 50th career wins, Kennedy gave up six hits and three runs while striking out seven in five innings. He has not won since June 1.
“A lot of balls were elevated. … These guys are very aggressive when you get behind them, and they stung us on them,” said Arizona manager Kirk Gibson. “He’s got to pitch better.”
Hill had two of Arizona’s four hits, but was doubled up after each of them.
With one game left in July, the Rays’ current 21-4 record ranks as the best July since the 1941 New York Yankees went 25-4 in the month Joe Dimaggio’s 56-game hitting streak ended.
NOTES: The game was delayed 20 minutes in the second inning when some lights went out as a result of a lightning strike at a nearby power substation. … Rays RHP Alex Cobb threw 50 pitches in a simulated game Tuesday and is scheduled to pitch three innings Saturday for Port Charlotte of the Class-A Florida State League in a rehab start. Cobb has not pitched for the Rays since sustaining a concussion when he was hit by a line drive on June 15. … Hill is 19-for-44 (.442) in his last 12 interleague games.