Rays complete sweep of Marlins with 7-2 win

Tampa Bay’s offense keeps rolling, scoring at least six runs for the seventh straight game.
Mike Brosseau tied a career high with three hits Sunday in the Rays' win over the Marlins. CHRIS URSO   |   Times CHRIS URSO   |   Times  |  Tampa Bay Times CHRIS URSO   |   Times
Mike Brosseau tied a career high with three hits Sunday in the Rays' win over the Marlins. CHRIS URSO | Times CHRIS URSO | Times | Tampa Bay TimesCHRIS URSO | Times
Published August 4
Updated August 4

ST. PETERSBURG — Break up the Tampa Bay Rays.

Sunday’s 7-2 win over the Marlins at Tropicana Field makes it six straight for the Rays, matching their longest streak of the season. At 65-48, they’re 17 games over .500 for the first time since June 10 and have surged in front of the Athletics in the American League wild-card standings.

Thanks to players who weren’t on the roster six weeks ago — or even six days ago — Tampa Bay is the hottest team in baseball. On Saturday, it was infielder Eric Sogard (two home runs and five runs batted in) and pitcher Nick Anderson (a perfect eighth inning). On Sunday, it was infielders Mike Brosseau (a career-high three hits, including a home run) and Jesus Aguilar (his first home run in a Rays uniform).

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“From the outside in, this should be a pretty fun team to join because we’re so bought in on the approach that everybody’s going to contribute,” manager Kevin Cash said. “Day to day, it could be a different person.”

Tampa Bay has hit multiple home runs in seven straight games, tying a team record. It has scored at least six runs in seven straight games, also tying a team record. During the stretch, the Rays have batted .320 with 36 extra-base hits, half of which have been home runs.

“Our offense right out of the gate from Opening Day on was really hot for a while,” Cash said. “You’re going to have some peaks and valleys in there. I think (hitting coach Chad Mottola and first-base coach Ozzie Timmons) do such a good job of instilling a consistent confidence in them, understanding that this game’s tough and the offense isn’t always going to roll.”

With Marlins left-hander Caleb Smith on the mound and holding opponents to a sub-.200 batting average, the Rays figured they would have to battle. Cash countered by constructing an all righty lineup. The strategy paid off as every hitter except shortstop Willy Adames reached base. Tampa Bay collected six hits and worked four walks in five innings against Smith, who had allowed six hits in only one other game this season.

The Marlins deserve some credit, too. Their lack of pitch command and sloppy defense gave the Rays extra outs. In the first inning, Tommy Pham hit what should have been a double-play ground ball to shortstop Miguel Rojas. The ball ricocheted off Rojas’ glove and into center field. Matt Duffy reached third on the error, and Aguilar’s sacrifice fly brought him home. Brosseau singled later in the inning to knock in Pham.

The second baseman added a solo home run in the third inning, driving an 0-2, two-out fastball into the left-field seats to give Tampa Bay a 3-0 lead. The run was nice and all, but it wasn’t even Brosseau’s primary objective.

“Going up to that at bat, I knew that (Smith) had thrown like five pitches (in the inning), so I was trying to go up there and see a couple of pitches, lengthen that inning out a little bit, give (starting pitcher Yonny Chirinos) a little bit of rest,” Brosseau said. “It was just an 0-2 pitch that I kept my hands in on, and it worked out for us.”

Chirinos picked up the win — his ninth of the season — but left the game after five innings and only 63 pitches because of right middle finger inflammation. He allowed two hits, a Brian Anderson home run in the fourth inning and a Harold Ramirez double in the fifth. Injury aside, it was a bounce back outing for Chirinos, who allowed seven runs in four innings in his last start, July 28 vs. the Blue Jays.

Rays catcher Mike Zunino (10) applies the tag to Marlins shortstop Miguel Rojas (19) for the out after Rojas attempted to steal home as home plate umpire Jordan Baker watches the play during the sixth inning Sunday. CHRIS URSO   |   Times CHRIS URSO   |   Times  |  Tampa Bay Times
Rays catcher Mike Zunino (10) applies the tag to Marlins shortstop Miguel Rojas (19) for the out after Rojas attempted to steal home as home plate umpire Jordan Baker watches the play during the sixth inning Sunday. CHRIS URSO | Times CHRIS URSO | Times | Tampa Bay Times

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The Rays broke the game open in the bottom of the seventh. Pham walked to lead off the inning and came around on a Travis d’Arnaud single. Avisail Garcia’s double off the top of the center-field wall plated two more runs to extend Tampa Bay’s lead to 6-1.

After Miami tacked on a run in the top of the eighth, Aguilar, who came over to the Rays via a trade with the Brewers on Wednesday, added more insurance in the bottom of the eighth with a 446-foot home run to left field.

Tampa Bay Rays first baseman Jesus Aguilar (21) smiles at the dugout after connecting for a solo homer in the eighth inning against the Miami Marlins Sunday, Aug. 4, 2019 in St. Petersburg. The Rays defeated the Miami Marlins 7-2. CHRIS URSO   |   Times CHRIS URSO   |   Times  |  Tampa Bay Times
Tampa Bay Rays first baseman Jesus Aguilar (21) smiles at the dugout after connecting for a solo homer in the eighth inning against the Miami Marlins Sunday, Aug. 4, 2019 in St. Petersburg. The Rays defeated the Miami Marlins 7-2. CHRIS URSO | Times CHRIS URSO | Times | Tampa Bay Times

“Think I got lucky and hit a home run,” Aguilar said with a wink. “Just tried to see the ball. Tried to get ready early, that’s the most important thing for me. Good things are going to happen, believe me. They’ve got a great group of guys here. I think this team has got a lot of things to do.”

Contact Thomas Bassinger at tbassinger@tampabay.com. Follow @tometrics.

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