WASHINGTON – Luke Raley, Josh Lowe and Yandy Díaz homered in the ninth inning as the undefeated Tampa Bay Rays rallied for a 10-6 win over the Washington Nationals on Tuesday night.
Raley hit his third homer in two nights, a liner to left field leading off the ninth against Washington closer Kyle Finnegan (0-1) that tied it at 6. Lowe followed with a shot into the second deck in right-center.
“I got a front-row view of (Raley’s homer),” Lowe said. “Knew it was gone off the bat. Then I went up there just trying to get on base. I got a good pitch to hit and put that one over the fence, and the boys kept it going.”
Not that Lowe was totally surprised by the turn of events.
“He called it today,” Raley said of Lowe predicting the back-to-back homers. “I mean, we’ve thrown it out there a couple of times. It hadn’t happened yet, but today it worked.”
With two on and one out, Díaz capped the outburst with a three-run homer to left-center, ending Finnegan’s outing.
“They were on everything I threw tonight,” Finnegan said. “I tried my best to get it by them and just couldn’t do it.”
Jose Siri also went deep and Randy Arozarena had two RBI doubles for the Rays, who improved to 5-0 and extended the best start in franchise history. They are off to the best start of any team since Baltimore opened 7-0 in 2016.
“It’s like a perfect, well-rounded team,” Raley said. “We have people that do everything. I think everybody can lose some balls. I mean, there’s a lot of power in the clubhouse, with a lot of speed. It’s a really unique group.”
Ryan Thompson (1-0) pitched one inning for the win.
Lane Thomas had three hits and drove in three runs for Washington, and Alex Call added three hits and a walk. The Nationals got 16 hits but went 3 for 13 with runners in scoring position.
“We stayed on the ball, we hit the ball. We used the whole field today,” manager Dave Martinez said. “Still need to do a better job of getting that guy in from third base with less than two outs. Those are big runs.”
Tampa Bay starting pitchers had allowed one run over 23 innings in the first four games, but Josh Fleming was touched for five runs on 10 hits and was lifted after the first three Nationals batters reached in the fourth.
Chad Kuhl pitched five innings in his Nationals debut. Signed to a minor league contract in the offseason, Kuhl made the team in spring training. He allowed four runs and four hits, but retired 10 of the last 11 batters he faced.
Hitters had their way early and the game was tied 4-all after two innings.
After Victor Robles and CJ Abrams singled to start the fourth, Thomas grounded a single to center, scoring Robles to make it 5-4.
Pinch-hitter Luis Garcia doubled home Call in the seventh to make it 6-4 before Arozarena’s double scored Díaz to pull the Rays to 6-5 in the eighth.
“Bats kind of went quiet for a little bit, but stayed at it and really turned it on in the ninth,” Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash said. “Really putting together a pretty good series.”
Thomas has been among the few bright spots for the Nationals. He’s hit safely in four of five games and is batting .381 with four RBIs while hitting leadoff against left-handers.
RUNNING IT UP
The Rays have outscored their opponents 37-11. That plus-26 run differential through five games is the best in club history. The previous high was plus-14 in 2014 and 2020.
Rays LHP Shane McClanahan (1-0), who tossed six shutout innings against the Tigers on opening day, starts the series finale Wednesday. Nationals LHP Patrick Corbin (0-1) allowed three runs in five innings on opening day versus the Braves.