ST. PETERSBURG – Let's be clear here, the Rays still have a long way to go, and a lot of ground to make up.
But seeing them play like they did Saturday in beating the Twins 10-1, putting on a solid all-around show in cobbling their first three-game winning streak and improving to 7-13, was encouraging.
"We needed a game like that,'' Rays manager Kevin Cash said.
Blake Snell gave them another impressive start, working a Rays season–high seven strong innings, allowing a first-inning run and little else – including no walks for a second straight outing (for the first time in his career), improving to 3-1, 2.54.
"There's still more. I know there's more,'' said Snell, crediting catcher Wilson Ramos heavily for his success. "So I'm not going to be satisfied with it. I want to be better. I know I can be. It's definitely in the right direction, especially from a walk standpoint. But I still know I can grasp on to and really be a better all around pitcher.''
Said Cash: "He's building something pretty good right now. … The way he attacked in the zone to some good hitters – when he's convicted with mixing his pitches and relying on his fastball to open up the off-speed pitches, we've got a pretty special pitcher on our hand.''
The somewhat somnolent offense broke open what had been a 2-1 game in the seventh, cranking out a season-high 10 runs overall on three homers, two – for two runs each – from C.J. Cron, and a 431-foot blast from Daniel Robertson. Plus RBI machine Denard Span – "Mister Clutch,'' Cash cracked – drove in three more runs, giving him a team-high 17 in in his 17 games.
"Piece together, piece together,'' Cash said. "Hopefully it snowballs for a week, a months, five months.''
And they made a series of impressive plays, none more so than second baseman Joey Wendle racing out from infield-in positioning to corral a popup and then spin and throw home in the seventh to keep the Twins from scoring the tying run. "About as challenging a play as I've seen all year,'' Cash said. "He basically saved the lead right there.''
INF Matt Duffy (right hamstring strain) progressed to running at about 60 percent with a plan if all continues to go well to play rehab games this week and rejoin the team in Boston next weekend. … CF Kevin Kiermaier was at the Trop – and at one point on the field with a glove on his left hand – a day after surgery to repair a torn UCL in his right thumb that "went as good as it could have gone.'' Kiermaier said the biggest challenge will come from being idled until an April 30 followup appointment, and out of action into mid-July: "I've got to try to stay sane.'' … RHP Nathan Eovaldi threw from the slope of the mound Saturday, three weeks after surgery to remove loose cartilage from his elbow, putting him on and possibly ahead of schedule for a late-May return.
Denard's daily deed
Tampa-raised OF Denard Span on Saturday hosted two area high-schoolers from single-parent families, the launch of a regular "Span Fans" program. "Just so they can enjoy being up closer and personal with myself and some of the guys,'' said Span, who was raised by his mom, and helps through his charitable foundation.
About Friday night …
Friday's dramatic win remained a topic of conversation, specifically how the Rays had started celebrating when Denard Span was called safe at first as Johnny Field faced home from second, then had to wait out the replay review. "Our hearts were on pause for a few minutes,'' Span said. … It was the first game to end with a walkoff win withstanding a challenge since the Nationals beat the Mets on July 3, 2017. … It also was first time the Rays got a game-tying hit with two outs in the ninth of a home game since 2011, when Dan Johnson homered in Game 162.
* INF/OF Brandon Snyder, DFA'd Friday as INF Brad Miller was activated off the DL, cleared waivers and accepted an outright assignment back to Triple-A Durham.
* The Rays will leave after Sunday's game for Baltimore and spend the off-day there rather than at home.
* Longtime Rays starter RHP Alex Cobb is scheduled to be on the mound for Tuesday's series opener in Baltimore, though there is a 90 percent chance of rain.
* OF Carlos Gomez had the best line after Friday's game, when asked about the veteran players contributing to the team's win: "We feel sexy about it. It's not how old you are, it's how you feel. And every day I feel hot."
* DH C.J. Cron had the ninth multi-homer game of his career, first as a Ray.