SEATTLE — The Tampa Bay Rays have been especially bad at the plate with runners in scoring position this week.
Ji-Man Choi came up with an easy solution in their 5-3 win Friday against the Seattle Mariners: don’t swing.
“I think we are a pretty unique group,” Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash said. “We constantly have to find ways to win in tight ballgames. We are in a lot of tight ballgames.”
Choi drew a bases-loaded walk from reliever Anthony Bass to break a 2-2 tie in the top of the ninth inning. The Mariners also committed an error and failed to turn a double play in the inning, letting another game slip away late.
The three-run burst snapped Tampa Bay’s nine-game losing streak at Seattle. The Rays won their eighth in 10 games and remained in second in the AL wild-card race.
Tampa Bay entered the game in a 1 for 23 slump with runners in scoring position since Sunday. After scoring a pair of runs on grounders, the Rays entered the ninth 2 for 30 with runners in scoring position.
They went 0 for 3 in the ninth, but it didn’t matter this time.
After allowing a leadoff single to pinch-hitter Eric Sogard, Bass (1-4) walked Kevin Kiermaier and Michael Brosseau moved both runners over with a sacrifice bunt.
The Mariners then intentionally walked Willy Adames to load the bases. Pinch-hitting, Choi patiently worked the count full, ignoring a pair of backdoor sliders, before earning the RBI.
“Multiple pitches that (Bass) threw that you see a lot of left handers swing at, kind of that backdoor slider,” Cash said. “They all from the side looked like strikes out of hand and then they broke out of the zone. Credit Ji-Man a lot.”
Shortstop J.P. Crawford booted Tommy Pham’s grounder to make it 4-2 and Austin Meadows’ RBI grounder made it a three-run lead.
“That last inning there were a lot of good at-bats,” Cash said. “Sogard had a good at-bat. KK gets us going. Brosseau gets a bunt down. So a lot of things went our way. We didn’t necessarily knock the cover off the ball, but we were able to put balls in play.”
Oliver Drake (1-1) pitched a scoreless eighth for the win. Emilio Pagan got his 10th save despite allowing rookie Ryan Court’s first career home run.
Five Rays relievers combined to strike out 11 in 5 1/3 innings after Jalen Beeks exited in the fourth inning. Beeks fanned four.
“That’s a tough team,” Seattle manager Scott Servais said. “Their bullpen is one of the best in the league. All different looks, they all do it a little bit differently. So when you get in a bullpen game like that, it takes a lot to get over the hump.”
The Rays got a boost when Servais pulled starting pitcher Marco Gonzales in the seventh inning after he took a groundball to the calf.
“He got smoked,” Servais said.
Gonzales had been on a four-game winning streak and matched his career high in strikeouts with nine. But he was forced to watch the bullpen finish the game, usually a tough scenario for Seattle this season, but Bass has been one of the team’s better relievers.
“I put myself in that position,” Bass said. “It’s never easy when you’ve got runners on base in scoring position. But you’ve got to make pitches, especially that late in the game, and I just didn’t do that.”
EDGAR’S HOMECOMING — Former Mariners star Edgar Martinez is making the final stop on his Hall of Fame tour with a fan appreciation weekend that includes giveaways, a roundtable of Seattle notables including Ken Griffey Jr., the Seahawks’ Steve Largent, SuperSonics center Jack Sikma and Guns N’ Roses bassist Duff McKagan, and he’ll give one final speech to fans Saturday.
“Sometimes I feel like it’s a little too much,” Martinez said. The speech will be aimed at the fans: “I wanted to let them know how I feel about thems, the important role they played in my career. It’s been a great relationship for a long time.”
Martinez started the celebration Friday morning by climbing on the roof of the Space Needle to raise his number.
“Those ladders going up, that’s not a fun task,” he joked.
TRAINER’S ROOM — Seattle right-hander Felix Hernandez will need one or two more rehab starts after an effective outing Thursday at Single-A Modesto. He threw 41 pitches in two innings. Servais hopes to stretch him out to five innings before he returns to the Seattle rotation, but isn’t sure where he’ll pitch yet. ... Outfielders Mitch Haniger (testicle surgery) and Braden Bishop (ruptured spleen) will likely start rehab assignments early next week. Both have been out since early June and Servais said they’ll need 25 to 30 minor league at-bats before he’ll consider activating them. ... Second baseman Dee Gordon (right quad strain) met with a doctor Friday and depending on the results could make a rehab start or return to the active roster next week.
UP NEXT — Tampa Bay right-hander Charlie Morton (12-4, 2.77 ERA) has not had two consecutive losses without a no-decision between them since 2015. ... An opener will start the game for the Mariners, with left-hander Wade LeBlanc (6-5, 5.38 ERA) scheduled to take over.