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Sunday, Sep 24, 2017
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Rays' bizarre road trip ends with mini-sweep of Jays

TORONTO - It has been a strange week or so for the Tampa Bay Rays, what with the losing at the start of the road trip, all the errors in Baltimore and another rash of injuries. Some might call it weird. "We can get weird. That's all right. We've gotten weird before," pitcher Jeff Niemann said Tuesday afternoon before using his super-sized crutches for his broken leg and heading toward the trainer's room inside the visiting clubhouse at Rogers Centre. Then the Rays went out and took advantage of a sloppy seventh inning by the Blue Jays, a strong effort on the mound by David Price, more production from the bottom of the order and won their third straight game, 4-3. What started out as a disaster of an eight-game road trip ended with a .500 record and a charter flight back to St. Petersburg for the co-leaders in the American League East.
"I guess this is what passes for normal around here," said second baseman Will Rhymes, a relative newcomer to the team. Given that Desmond Jennings, Brandon Allen and Niemann all landed on the disabled list during the trip as the Rays made their way though the American League East, manager Joe Maddon said before the game that even a 3-5 trip would be acceptable. "Four and four off this road trip is spectacular," he said after the game. "Some tough games in New York, some tough games in Baltimore, to come back and beat a very good team in Toronto, coming from behind both nights is spectacular. There's no quit in our guys." Price survived a third inning in which he allowed three runs with two outs — the last two coming on a long home run by Edwin Encarnacion — and improved to 6-2 this season and 11-2 lifetime against the Jays, including 5-0 in six starts at Rogers Centre. Price allowed six hits during his seven innings — only one after Encarnacion's homer. Joel Peralta worked a perfect eighth and Fernando Rodney set the Jays down in order in the ninth to record his 11th save in as many chances. The only fireworks from the Jays during the final two innings came from third baseman Brett Lawrie, who slammed his batting helmet in the dirt after being called out on strikes for the second out of the ninth inning. The helmet bounced off home plate umpire Bill Miller, who quickly tossed Lawrie. "It's just the passion I have for the game," Lawrie said. "I felt I let my teammates down. I wanted to get on base, and I felt that was taken away from me." Miller was hit by a beer thrown from the stands as he walked off the field. As frustrated as the Jays were with the loss, the Rays were ecstatic, holding their usual post-win dance party in the clubhouse, celebrating the latest victory and a successful trip. "I think that was a pretty goad road trip for us, especially with the injuries we're dealing with right now," Price said. As was the case in the first two games of this winning streak, the bottom of the order sparked the offense. "They've all been doing good," Maddon said. "They're taking a little bit of heat off the middle part. They're doing some things, scoring some runs." Rhymes singled to start the fifth inning and scored on a two-out double to center by Ben Zobrist. Sean Rodriguez started the seventh inning with an opposite-field home run. Rhymes followed with a single and Jose Molina was safe when Yunel Escobar dropped his grounder to short. Elliot Johnson extended his hit streak to a career-best seven games with a single to left field, and Rhymes hustled home with the trying run when Rajai Davis couldn't pick up the ball. A wild pitch advanced Johnson and Molina to second and third, respectively. Zobrist was safe at first when second baseman Kelly Johnson, playing in, couldn't hold on to his line drive. Molina scored the go-ahead run when B.J. Upton hit into a double play. "We do like weird," Maddon said. Why? Easy. "It's a carryover from the last couple of years, is what I think," Maddon said. "When you've been good and you've won a little bit, guys like to win and don't like to lose."
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