Luke Scott changed his pregame meal and got his first hit in more than a month.
Tampa Bay’s designated hitter broke his team-record hitless streak at 41 at-bats with a two-run homer and the Rays snapped out of their slump by routing the Cleveland Indians 10-3 Friday night.
”Take a 300-pound gorilla and pull it off my back, that’s how it feels,” Scott said after getting his first hit since June 1. ”I just felt relief, felt thankful.”
Scott credited All-Star closer Fernando Rodney with a save without throwing a pitch – but for getting him to eat some Spanish-style cuisine.
”Fernando said, `Anybody who wants to throw 100 (mph) or hit home runs, eat this,’ and I was first in line,” Scott said of a pregame dish that included peas, rice, plantains, shrimp and avocados.
Rays manager Joe Maddon revealed that Scott got a special congratulatory phone call in the dugout after connecting against Justin Masterson (5-8) in a six-run fifth inning.
”It was President Obama,” Maddon joked. ”I could tell by the ring it was the President.”
Actually, it was the Rays’ bullpen on the line. They wanted to join the celebration as Scott was hugged and exchanged high-fives with position players after circling the bases.
Even Masterson pretended to enjoy seeing Scott’s streak end.
”I was just trying to be friendly,” Masterson said. ”He was struggling quite a bit, coming close to a record. I figured, what the heck, let’s give him an opportunity to get out of that. He’s a good guy. It’s just people helping people.”
Ben Zobrist had a two-run homer, Jose Lobaton a two-run single and Elliot Johnson a two-run double as the Rays broke Cleveland’s three-game win streak and improved to 5-13 against the AL Central.
The Rays had scored more than four runs in a game only once in 11 previous contests. Their big outburst helped Alex Cobb (4-5) overcome a shaky start to pitch six innings and win for the second time in seven decisions since May 30.
Scott struck out his first two times up, moving within five at-bats of the major league record. Eugenio Velez went 46 consecutive hitless at bats in 2010-11.
After B.J. Upton hit a one-out single in the fifth, Scott drove the first pitch he saw from Masterson to center, then waited almost breathlessly for the towering shot to land. As it did, Michael Brantley tried to make a leaping catch at the wall, but missed by inches.
”I didn’t think I got it all, but knew I hit it good,” Scott said. ”I just felt relief, felt thankful.”
Scott went 1 for 5 overall for the Rays, who came in hitting only .209 (73 for 349) and averaging 2.9 runs in a 3-8 stretch since sweeping an interleague doubleheader from Philadelphia on June 24.
The Rays struck quickly against Masterson, who fell to 1-6 with an 11.40 ERA in eight career starts against them.
Desmond Jennings lined the game’s first pitch to center for a single. One out later, Zobrist’s 11th homer made it 2-0.
Cobb gave the lead right back in the bottom half as Cleveland got three hits and a walk. Travis Hafner grounded into a double play as one run scored and Asdrubal Cabrera went to third. Cabrera broke for home on a 3-2 pitch, then stopped. It caused Cobb to balk and Cabrera trotted home anyway to tie it at 2.
”Cabrera’s a smart baseball player,” Maddon said. ”He got us.”
Said Cobb: ”It was just a mental mistake. No excuse. I was not focusing.”
Lobaton restored the Rays’ lead with a two-run single in the third, breaking a 1-for-18 slump.
Johnson’s two-run double off reliever Nick Hagadone made it 8-2 in the fifth. Zobrist added a sacrifice fly and Upton an RBI single.
Shin-Soo Choo’s RBI single in the bottom half made it 10-3.
Cleveland put two runners on in the sixth before Cobb again got Hafner to bounce into a double play. Cobb gave up three runs and six hits overall.
Masterson gave up eight runs and nine hits over 4 1-3 innings – one more earned run than he yielded over his previous five starts and 36 innings.
Notes: Before the game, Maddon defended batting coach Derek Shelton, blamed by some fans back home for Tampa Bay’s prolonged slump. ”It’s not fair for him to be criticized at all,” Maddon said. ”In today’s world, it’s so funny how sometimes people immediately want to have somebody’s head when things aren’t going well.” Maddon listed injuries to several key players, including All-Star 3B Evan Longoria, who has missed 59 games with a torn hamstring, and OF Matt Joyce, out since June 20 with a strained left oblique. … OF Shelley Duncan rejoined the Indians after two days on the paternity list. His wife Elyse delivered twin sons Thursday. INF Jason Donald was optioned to Triple-A Columbus to clear room for Duncan.