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Monday, May 21, 2018
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Tampa Bay Rays

Hernandez, Rays finish sweep of Padres

ST. PETERSBURG - The Rays had scored twice in the bottom of the sixth inning Sunday to take a one-run lead, a development that spelled the end of the day for starter Roberto Hernandez and the beginning of the day for the bullpen.

Sean Rodriguez, who drove in the first run that inning with a single, turned to Hernandez in the dugout and said, "Here you go, man. This is your win."

Hernandez smiled and said he hoped so.

"I said no, no, no, we're going to keep it. We'll keep it," Rodriguez later recalled.

And they did.

Jake McGee, Joel Peralta and Fernando Rodney did their jobs and the Rays went on to complete the three-game sweep against the San Diego Padres with a 4-2 victory in front of a Mother's Day crowd of 17,396 at Tropicana Field.

"That's the way it's supposed to look," Rays manager Joe Maddon said.

The victory extended the Rays' winning streak to a season-high five and pushed their season record (19-18) above .500 for only the second time this season.

Given the events of the previous few days, it was kind of a ho-hum victory.

Hernandez allowed two runs in six innings. The offense put him in position to earn his second victory of the season when Yunel Escobar doubled home Rodriguez to complete the two-run, sixth-inning rally.

James Loney tacked on another run with a solo home run in the eighth.

And the bullpen — oh that bullpen — allowed a hit and a walk and struck out five over the remaining three innings.

For those keeping track, that's back-to-back scoreless outings for McGee, another hold for Peralta and two saves in consecutive tries for Rodney, who has six for the season.

"It's been good to go out there and have some 1-2-3 innings instead of battling through every inning I pitch," McGee said. "It's nice to get ahead of hitters. I've been doing that lately, have them put the ball in play."

The three pitchers extended the bullpen's run of scoreless innings to 132/3, including 92/3 in the three games against the Padres.

"You can never lose that confidence, that know how for what you've come to expect, what you've come to know, what you've come to understand is going to happen with the bullpen," Rodriguez said. "You have to keep that confidence not because you want to but because they've earned that respect. That's what we have to know. They're going to get it done. They're going to get on a run. It will happen."

Peralta allowed a one-out hit and Rodney walked a batter with two outs.

The closest any of the three came to any trouble was when Padres center fielder Chris Denorfia drove a ball to deep right field that Matt Joyce ran down with an over-the-head catch just in front of the wall.

Rodney struck out Padres second baseman Nick Amarista to end the game and fired the imaginary arrow toward the gong down the right-field line.

It all looked very familiar.

"That's it," Joyce said. "The last couple years, it's just been lights-out, the seventh-, eighth-, ninth-inning guys. Hopefully we can get that comfortability in the late innings again."

Peralta said that is coming.

"We had a bad stretch, but everybody here from the manager to all the pitchers expected us to do what we've been doing the last couple of games," Peralta said. "It feels great to go out there and help the team win games."

The turnaround that Maddon began predicting in Colorado on the last road trip appears to have taken root. The offense is producing. The Rays just need the pitching to settle down, and having the bullpen return to form is a big step toward that end.

"Peralta, Jake, all these guys are really throwing the ball extremely well, not just OK," Maddon said. "And as they really get their confidence flowing through a couple successful outings, you're really going to see them take off again."
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