ST. PETERSBURG — The last time the Rays and Dodgers shared the same field, Los Angeles was celebrating its first World Series championship since 1988 at Globe Life Field in Arlington.
They’ve been the two most consistently successful clubs in baseball since the start of that shortened season, with the Dodgers going 291-145 over the past three years and the Rays just behind them at 264-173. Both clubs are once again among the Majors’ best this season, but Tampa Bay is setting itself apart due to the dynamic lineup that scored early and often to deliver a 9-3 win on Friday night at Tropicana Field.
“I’ve always said that this team is capable of doing anything,” center fielder Jose Siri said through interpreter Manny Navarro. “We have the home runs. We can run. We play defense. We’re able to do everything.”
The Rays scored in a variety of ways in Friday’s victory, befitting a team that leads the Majors in both home runs and stolen bases by considerable margins.
They used their speed and baserunning acumen to steal four bases against the Dodgers, and they showed their power with two homers: one by leadoff man Yandy Díaz and the other off the bat of No. 9-hitting Siri.
“They slug. They take 90 feet by the stolen base. The first part of the equation is to try and keep these guys off the bases,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said before the game. “They homer. They run. They’re aggressive. They do a good job of using their roster and maximizing the skill sets.”
The Rays also had to make the most out of nearly every available pitcher Friday night as they improved to 25-5 at Tropicana Field and 38-15 overall this season.
They sent eight pitchers to the mound, starting with opener Jalen Beeks and bulk-innings righty Cooper Criswell, who earned his first big league win (and a celebratory beer shower) with four innings of one-run ball after allowing five runs to the Brewers last time out.
“All-around team effort,” Criswell said.
The Rays allowed nine hits, six walks and one hit batter, but they held the Dodgers to three hits in 14 at-bats with runners in scoring position and stranded 11. They turned two key double plays. Relievers Jake Diekman, Colin Poche and Jason Adam recorded just one out each, but they all defused potential rallies, and Pete Fairbanks pitched a perfect ninth.
“They did a nice job. They needed to,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “L.A. got plenty of guys on base. Felt like, when we needed a big pitch made, it seemed to happen for us pretty frequently.”
The Rays’ lineup also gave the pitching staff plenty of room to work with.
In the first inning, Díaz doubled off Dodgers starter Noah Syndergaard — extending his on-base streak to 20 games — and moved to third base when Wander Franco hustled out an infield single that didn’t get past first base. Brandon Lowe delivered a run-scoring groundout, then Josh Lowe smacked an RBI single to center field.
Tampa Bay tacked on two more runs in the second on run-scoring outs, a Díaz groundout and a sacrifice fly by Franco, to make it a 4-1 game.
Taylor Walls hit a two-out single to center in the third then stole second and third, putting himself in position to score on a single to left by Christian Bethancourt, who finished 3-for-4 with two doubles and two runs scored.
“Everyone’s just doing their part,” Díaz said through Navarro. “Everyone’s just doing the little things, and then when everyone’s doing the little things, it turns into something big.”
After sitting out the past three games while tending to a family matter, Díaz provided the power in the fourth inning by sending a towering shot out to left field for his team-leading 12th homer.
“I didn’t think he was going to forget how to hit,” Cash said, “so I was right.”
The Rays added to their lead in the seventh. Franco reached on a fielder’s-choice grounder, stole second — the Rays’ fourth steal of the game and Franco’s 18th of the year — and scored on Brandon Lowe’s hard-hit single to right. Then Siri smashed a two-run homer in the eighth, giving him nine homers and a .905 OPS.
“He is putting together a special season. He’s doing a lot of good things for us, making adjustments from game to game, making adjustments at-bat to at-bat,” Cash said. “Just so pleased with the way he’s gone about it.”