ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — The Tampa Bay Rays got some strong offensive support to back their pitching and keep up their strong play.
Brandon Lowe, Ji-Man Choi and Yandy Diaz homered in the first three innings and the Rays beat the Baltimore Orioles 8-1 Wednesday night.
Choi reached based four straight times on two hits and two walks, and Mike Zunino had three of the Rays’ 13 hits as they won for the eighth time in nine games.
“I can’t say I’ve seen a game where we’ve put that many (hits) together, ” said Zunino, who came into the game hitting .140. “I think it goes with our approach. Guys know what they’re doing. They’re going up there trusting themselves. It’s a good stretch right now and hopefully we’ll continue to do that.”
Yonny Chrinos (3-0) replaced opener Ryne Stanek in the second inning and gave up one hit in five scoreless innings to get the win. He struck out six of the first seven batters he faced.
It was the eighth straight home game in which the Rays gave up two runs or fewer. They have given up nine runs in their last eight games at home and have a 2.33 ERA after 14 games.
Rio Ruiz hit his second home run for the Orioles, who have lost seven of nine.
After singles by Austin Meadows and Choi in the first inning, Lowe hit a long three-run homer off Baltimore starter David Hess (1-3). It was Lowe’s fourth homer in seven games and his fifth of the season.
Between back-to-back homers by Choi and Diaz in the third, Orioles field coordinator Tim Cossins was ejected by home plate umpire CB Bucknor. Choi’s home run was his first of the season, and Diaz hit his fourth.
“Everyone else is hitting,” said Diaz through a translator. “It’s contagious and you just want to keep on going.”
Hess gave up six runs and eight hits in two innings.
“(I was) just leaving balls over the middle of the plate,” he said. “.It’s a good-hitting team right now. They’re feeling good. You can’t do that against any major league team, especially a team that’s hitting like that.”
At 14-4, the Rays maintained their 5 1/2-game lead in the AL East.
“Right now we do have a lot of guys who are not only feeling good at the plate, they’re producing at the plate,” manager Kevin Cash said. “You’ll take it while it lasts because this game’s tough and hitting is as tough as anything in the game. It’s nice when you have a lineup one to nine that seems really confident walking up to the plate.
HOW DID HE DO THAT?
“One of my buddies texted me and said: ‘How do you get caught stealing twice in the same inning?’ Rays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier reported. “I was like” ‘Wait a minute, what?'”
In the seventh inning Tuesday night, Kiermaier was ruled safe after Orioles SS Jonathan Villar dropped the ball on his steal attempt. It was recorded as a caught stealing, and Villar was charged with an error. Then pitcher Mike Wright caught Kiermaier trying to steal third base.
“I saw a stat that I was the first guy to do that in eight years, since Brandon Phillips did it (with Cincinnati),” Kiermaier said. “This game is crazy.”
Orioles: Renato Nunez got his first start in the field when 1B Chris Davis missed a second straight game with a stomach virus, leaving the Orioles with a two-man bench. … C Austin Wynns (oblique) was reinstated from the injured list and optioned to Triple-A Norfolk.
Rays: LHP Blake Snell (broken right fourth toe) took some throws from 90 feet. … INF Joey Wendle (strained left hamstring) played five innings at 2B in an extended spring training game and went 2 for 5.
RHP Andrew Cashner (3-1, 3.51) will try to win his fourth straight start for the Orioles in Thursday night’s series finale against Hunter Wood (0-0), who has pitched four innings in two games for the Rays.
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