ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Tropicana Field had equated to ruin for the Red Sox.
The Sox’ previous win at the Rays’ home ballpark came April 23 of last season when they were still riding high on their American League Championship Series berth from the year prior. Since then, the Sox had lost 13 straight games at the Trop, the franchise’s longest winless streak at any venue.
The Sox snapped that streak Monday behind a late-game avalanche, starting with a Triston Casas go-ahead three-run homer in the sixth and continuing with a Masataka Yoshida two-run blast in the eighth to secure a 7-3 win.
Rays starter Aaron Civale collected a career-high 12 strikeouts in 5 innings and held the Sox without a hit until Adam Duvall’s two-out RBI single in the fourth that trimmed the visitors’ deficit to 3-1. Rafael Devers and Justin Turner worked one-out walks before Duvall broke through against Civale.
In the sixth, leadoff hitter Wilyer Abreu stroked a ground-rule double to left-center field. Civale struck out Devers but walked Turner again, which chased the righthander from the game. Rays manager Kevin Cash called on reliever Chris Devenski to face Casas, who punished his go-ahead three-run shot to left-center.
Casas’s homer came on a 1-0 changeup. That Casas was up in the count and was able to put a swing on that pitch with such authority was a clear indication he was sitting changeup.
“I know [Devenski] has a pretty unorthodox delivery and it makes his changeup a really good pitch,” Casas said. “I figured that they were going to try to go to at some point in the at-bat to get me to roll into a double play. I felt like that was what the situation called for with him coming out of the bullpen.”
So, Casas’s goal was to try to get something in the air.
“Luckily,” he added, “‘it went over the fence.”
Casas finished the game with a 2 for 4 showing that included a run-scoring single in the eighth to bring his RBI total to four, marking a career high for the first baseman.
Casas’s numbers continue to rise despite it being this late into the season. He’s batting .268/.368/.503 with 23 homers.
“I played with him for a number of years,” said winning pitcher Brayan Bello, who came up through the minors with Casas. “I am seeing him do now what I’ve seen him do this whole time. That’s just the kind of player he is.”
The start of Monday’s contest wasn’t all that pleasing for the Sox. In fact, it smelled as though they would endure a 14th straight loss at Tropicana Field.
The Rays put up three runs in the first inning off Bello. Josh Lowe started the frame with a leadoff single up the middle, one that exploited second baseman Luis Urias’s lack of range going to his left. With one out, Bello walked Randy Arozarena, which set up a double steal to put both runners in scoring position. Brandon Lowe then punched the second ground-ball single up the middle past a diving Urias, this one bringing home the first two runs.
“[Bello] does a good job when we play good defense behind him,” manager Alex Cora said. “[He] made some adjustments. He was good. He made some pitches when we had to, picked his battles and gave us six strong innings.”
Harold Ramirez’s RBI double brought across the Rays’ third run of the first, but Bello would bounce back from his rough beginning without allowing another run through his six innings. He allowed five hits and two walks while striking out seven.
For much of the contest, it seemed as though the three runs would be all Tampa Bay needed.
After Casas went deep, the Sox turned to Bello for one more inning. He relinquished Josh Lowe’s fisted double to left and Luke Raley’s ground out to the right side moved Lowe to third base. But Bello, with runners on first and third following a two-out walk, ultimately would wiggle out of trouble, leaving the runners stranded by striking out Ramirez to end the inning.
Bello was credited with his first career win against the Rays after going 0-2 in three previous starts and sporting a 7.71 ERA against them.
In a game that the Red Sox needed their starter to go deep into the game, and to deliver a win, Bello did just that, moving the Red Sox within 4½ games out of the AL’s third wild-card spot.
“That first inning I fell behind the hitters,” Bello said. “But that’s what it takes to be in the big leagues, to make adjustments. So coming out for the second, I made some adjustments and just kept the same routine going.”
Casas, meanwhile, made his big league debut against the Rangers a year ago Monday. It’s safe to say he’s earned his spot in the order.
“I think he’s going to keep hitting fourth in this lineup,” Cora said.