The Tampa Bay Rays are 20 games over .500 for the first time since the 2013 season, and are feeling pretty good about themselves.
Avisaíl García had a two-run home run among his three hits and Matt Duffy had four hits and three RBIs for the Rays, who benefited from a Padres bullpen meltdown in a 10-4 victory Monday night in their first game in San Diego since 2004.
The Rays, currently holding the second AL wild-card spot, won their fourth game in a row overall and their eighth straight on the road.
“I think it’s awesome, especially with the stretch of games that we have coming up here, a pretty extended stretch where taking care of business is a big deal. To go into that feeling good as a team with a good vibe in the clubhouse, everybody believing that good things are going to happen, that’s certainly a big thing.”
“We’re clicking on all the right cylinders in a good stretch, an important stretch. A lot of positive things happening right now.”
Tampa Bay’s only other visit to San Diego was as the first AL team to play at Petco Park, sweeping a series from June 15-17, 2004. The Rays have won eight straight in the series.
“I saw something the other day, we’ve held a playoff spot for a good chunk of the season,” Duffy said. “We have to just continue to focus on that day’s game and make sure it stays that way.”
Travis d’Arnaud walked with one out in the first and with two outs, García drove the first pitch he saw from left-hander Joey Lucchesi (7-7) into the seats in left field, his 17th.
With Padres starter Joey Lucchesi going only 4 2/3 innings, the bullpen faltered.
García doubled and scored in the three-run seventh against reliever Trey Wingenter.
Duffy’s RBI infield single in the third broke a 2-2 tie and he added a two-run double in the seventh. The Rays added four more runs off Carl Edwards Jr. in the eighth.
Rays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier made a spectacular catch at the top of the wall of a drive by Francisco Mejia to end the eighth.
San Diego backup second baseman Ian Kinsler pitched the ninth, allowing a single, walking two and hitting a batter, but not allowing a run. He was backed by a double play started by rookie shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr.
Kinsler hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth.
Kinsler said he hadn’t pitched since he was 13 in Pony ball.
“My dad made me choose when I was 13 and I chose to be a position player,” he said. “Maybe I missed my calling.”
He said it was “a little nerve-wracking at first, honestly. I mean, you don’t want to hit anybody. You just want to throw strikes. But it was a lot of fun. My arm’s going to be in pain probably for the next couple days. It was entertaining I guess to say the least.”
After García lined out to third baseman Manny Machado to end the ninth, Kinsler raised his right fist in celebration.
“I mean, someone’s got to do it,” he said. “And you’re not going to put Hunter (Renfroe) in there because he’ll try to throw it 100. You don’t want Hunter getting hurt. Just the way the game it was going, it was pretty obvious, so I just went in the cage and got a little loose and tried to make the best of it.”
Said manager Andy Green: “That’s probably the only guy down there in that dugout I trust not to try and throw 100. Ultimately in that situation we’re looking to get guys out of there healthy. He did a really nice job. He proclaimed himself Babe Ruth after he hit the home run in the ninth.”
Rays opener Diego Castillo allowed an unearned run in the first inning and Austin Pruitt (2-0) followed by holding San Diego to one run and five hits in four innings while striking out four and walking none.
Tatis, the Padres’ leadoff hitter, reached on third baseman Duffy’s error, advanced on two groundouts and scored on Eric Hosmer’s double off Castillo.
The Padres tied it in the second when Lucchesi singled to center to bring in Manuel Margot, who hit a leadoff double and advanced on a passed ball.
The Rays went ahead 3-2 in the third when Duffy beat out an infield single brought in Heredia, who drew a leadoff walk and took third on García’s single to right.
Lucchesi allowed three runs and five hits in 4 2/3 innings, struck out six and walked three.
Tatis, the 6-foot-3 rookie shortstop known to his family as “Bebo,” made a sensational leaping catch of Jesus Aguilar’s screaming line drive for the second out in the third. Tatis’ father was a major league infielder for 11 seasons.
Rays: Rookie LHP Brendan McKay (2-2, 4.55) is scheduled to start Tuesday night and face an NL team for the first time. He did serve as the DH in his second game, going 0 for 4 against Baltimore on July 1.
Padres: LHP Eric Lauer (6-8, 4.51) will face the Rays for the first time.
More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/tag/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports