PHOENIX (AP) The Tampa Bay offense hadn't done anything all night and Josh Lowe wasn't due up at the plate until the sixth batter of the ninth inning.
It's safe to say the situation didn't look great. But almost immediately upon coming back to the dugout after the eighth, the right fielder grabbed his helmet and batting gloves. There's a reason the Rays have the best record in the majors and he figured he might be needed.
Sure enough, Lowe was the man who delivered a two-out, two-run double in the ninth to lead Tampa Bay to a 3-2 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks on Wednesday night.
“I had my helmet and batting gloves on from the first batter of the inning,” Lowe said. “Just ready to go no matter what happens. If I get up to hit, try to do something to help the team win. I was ready to go.”
The Rays were in danger of losing the best record in the big leagues to the Atlanta Braves, but Lowe's big swing meant Tampa Bay gets to keep the spot it has held since starting the season with 13 straight wins.
“Really clutch - I'm happy for Josh,” Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash. “We have a number of guys who are kind of grinding through it right now, and he's probably one of them. He put a charge into one and picked us up with obviously the biggest hit of the game.”
Tampa Bay trailed 2-0 entering the ninth, but Yandy Díaz and Wander Franco started the inning with singles off Scott McGough. Luke Raley cut the lead to 2-1 with a single through the right side that brought home Díaz.
McGough briefly recovered, striking out Randy Arozarena and getting Isaac Paredes to line out, but Lowe hammered an 0-1 fastball into the left center gap that scored Franco and Raley.
McGough (0-6) had thrown 22 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings coming into Wednesday's game.
“The ninth inning is what makes this game so beautful,” D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said. “You love it and you can hate it at the same time.”
In the bottom of the ninth, Franco made a diving catch at shortstop on a ground ball, firing to first for the first out. Pete Fairbanks earned his ninth save. Díaz had three of the team's six hits.
The Rays' comeback negated a great outing from Arizona's Zach Davies, who had his best start of the season with seven scoreless innings of two-hit ball. The right-hander came into the game with a 7.82 ERA in seven starts, but coaxed the normally hard-hitting Rays into soft contact all night.
“He gave us seven incredible innings,” Lovullo said.
Davies' breakout game came at a very good time for the D-backs, who learned on Tuesday that they'll be without standout right-hander Merrill Kelly for at least the next few weeks after a blood clot was found in his right calf.
The Diamondbacks took a 1-0 lead in the third after three straight two-out singles by Alek Thomas, Jake McCarthy and Ketel Marte. They increased that margin to 2-0 in the fourth on another two-out single, this one by Carson Kelly that brought home Christian Walker.
Tampa Bay right-hander Zach Eflin threw well, giving up two runs on seven hits over seven innings. He struck out seven. Colin Poche (6-2) threw a scoreless eighth.
“Eflin was pretty special,” Cash said. “Any time a guy goes out there, that efficient, pretty dominant, gives up only two runs, we feel like we should do enough offensively to get him the win.”
CHANGE OF PACE
Even with the loss, Arizona is on a 96-win pace exactly halfway through the season. The D-backs lost 110 games just two seasons ago.
1998 EXPANSION BATTLE
The Diamondbacks-Rays series is a rare matchup of the previous two MLB expansion teams. Both came into the league in 1998 and are celebrating their 25th anniversary this season. The Rays hold a 14-10 advantage in the series.
Rays: IF Taylor Walls remains day-to-day with mid-back soreness. He was scratched before Tuesday's game.
The teams wrap up their three-game series on Thursday. The D-backs plan to start RHP Brandon Pfaadt (0-2, 8.37 ERA) while the Rays will counter with RHP Yonny Chirinos (3-3, 3.91 ERA)
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