ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Entering Friday’s opener against the Tampa Bay Rays, the Texas Rangers had lost five straight games, including a tough loss Thursday at Baltimore that saw them lose after leading by at least four runs for the major league-high seventh time this season.
But Friday offered the opposite kind of late-game switch, as Texas rallied from a 3-1 deficit in the ninth inning to win 4-3 in 10 innings, giving manager Jeff Banister hope that his team can bounce back with a little momentum and continued clutch hitting.
“When guys are seeing the ball well and getting barrel to it, you’d like to think that better things are ahead of us,” Banister said.
Texas had been 3-40 when trailing after eight innings, and the Rays had been 44-1 when leading after eight, so Tampa Bay has to hope the rare late loss doesn’t affect a team that has been buoyed by a recent surge that has put it contention for a wild card or more.
“We had some really big hits with the three solo home runs,” said Rays manager Kevin Cash, also defending a decision to let starter Alex Cobb come back out for the ninth inning. “Really impressed with the way the guys kind of waited it out. We didn’t get a ton, but we got solo home runs, and that was good to see.”
Entering the ninth, Friday looked to be a prototype 2017 Rays win — stellar pitching, solid defense and enough power to offset 12 strikeouts at the plate. They’ll hope for more of the same Saturday as right-hander Chris Archer (7-5, 3.91 ERA) gets the nod for Tampa Bay.
Archer has lasted at least six innings in 11 straight starts, the longest such stretch of his career, and he has lasted seven innings in seven starts, already one shy of his total for all of last season. Archer is 1-2 for his career against Texas with a 5.30 ERA, and he is still seeking his first career home win against the Rangers.
Earlier this season, Archer gave up seven hits and four runs in seven innings against the Rangers but did not get a decision.
Texas will answer with right-hander Andrew Cashner, who is 4-8 with a 3.58 ERA and is facing the Rays for the first time in his career. He is carrying a 1.98 ERA in July, but overall he has a 4.53 ERA in his last eight starts, backing off from a strong start.
The Rangers hope to get more from their bats, as they did Friday. Elvis Andrus snapped a career-long 11-game streak without an RBI by driving in the first run in the first and the winning run in the 10th. He had been in a 1-for-26 skid before the solo home run.
Another key bat that came up big for Texas Friday was Shin-Soo Choo, who now has two home runs in four games after going 16 games without one. He has eight hits in his last 16 at-bats with runners in scoring position, the kind of opportunistic hitting the Rangers will need to get back to .500.