Rays try to stay afloat as injuries hurt offense


By NOAH TRISTER, AP Baseball Writer

The Tampa Bay Rays entered the season with Wander Franco at shortstop, Brandon Lowe at second base and Mike Zunino behind the plate. With that kind of strength in the middle, a third consecutive AL East title seemed like a real possibility.

Now, those three players are injured, and Tampa Bay — along with the rest of the division — has been left behind by the New York Yankees.

The Rays lost two of three in Baltimore over the weekend and lost seven of nine overall on their road trip. That drop included a three-game sweep at the hands of the Yankees, who lead third-place Tampa Bay by 13 games and second-place Toronto by 11.

For the Rays, the infraction was the primary culprit. They rank 26th in the majors in both on-base percentage and slugging. Franco hasn’t played at all this month due to a quadriceps injury. Lowe, who hit 39 homers last season, has just five in 32 games in 2022. Back problems sidelined him for more than a month.

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Zunino also has just five home runs after hitting 33 in 2021. He went on the disabled list just over a week ago with a shoulder problem.

Even so, the Rays still have six games over .500. They have the fourth best ERA in baseball and Shane McClanahan (1.84) leads the American League in this category. But in an unforgiving AL East — with the Yankees on 120-game winning streak, and the Blue Jays and Red Sox also in playoff contention — Tampa Bay faces significant adversity.

Atlanta entered its series with Chicago on a 14-game winning streak, and the Cubs had lost 10 in a row. So naturally, Chicago took Game 1 1-0 on Friday.

It was the first time two double-digit streaks had ended in the same game since Philadelphia’s victory over Houston on September 15, 1999 – which ended an 11-game skid for the Phillies and a 12-game winning streak. straight for the Astros.

The Braves also lost to the Cubs on Saturday, but they managed a victory on Sunday. Atlanta went 21-8 on a 29-game streak against teams under .500 when the game was played.

It changes a lot now. The Braves, who trail the Mets in the NL East lead by 5½ games, face the Giants (37-28), Dodgers (40-25) and Phillies (36-32) to close out the month.

There had been just one clean inning — in which a pitcher hit the sideline on nine pitches — in the majors this year. Then two Houston Astros succeeded in the same game. Luis Garcia did it in the second inning Wednesday against Texas, and Phil Maton did it in the seventh.

The Texas hitters — Nathaniel Lowe, Ezequiel Duran and Brad Miller — were the same in those two innings.

The Rays are tied for the lead in the major leagues with 25 one-point games this season. They are 12-13 in those. Which two other teams have also played 25 one-point games?

Jack Suwinski hit three homers on Sunday, and the last one gave Pittsburgh a 4-3 win over San Francisco. He became the first rookie to cap a three-home run game with a game-ending drive, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. He also became the Pirates’ second rookie with a three-home run game. The only other was Andrew McCutchen, who did it in 2009.

The Yankees looked set for a 10th straight win when they led 8-3 in the sixth inning in Toronto on Sunday. Then Lourdes Gurriel Jr. hit a grand slam to bring the Blue Jays down to one point, and Teoscar Hernández added a three-point shot in the seventh to give Toronto a 10-8 advantage. The Blue Jays ended up winning 10-9.

Toronto (17-8) and Miami (8-17).

Follow Noah Trister at www.Twitter.com/noahtrister

More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/mlb and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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