ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays opened their three-game series against the Red Sox on Friday night by hitting three homers in the first four innings to pave the way for a 7-3 win at Tropicana Field.
The win brought the Rays (62-42) to within a half game of Boston (63-42) in the American League East. The teams are tied in the loss column.
“We are going to have to play really good baseball (against Boston), and we did that,” said manager Kevin Cash. “We will have a lot more challenges Saturday and Sunday, but it feels much better than not to win the first game (of the series).”
The Rays, who improved to 3-4 against Boston, will face their division rival 12 more times over the next 36 games.
The Rays took a 2-0 lead in the first on a two-run homer by Yandy Diaz, the first of his three hits. Mike Zunino and Randy Arozarena hit solo shots in the fourth to make it 6-2 and provide an immediate answer to the two runs the Red Sox got in the top half of the inning.
“Yandy set a tone early with a big home run to give us a 2-0 lead,” said Cash. “He really had a nice day at the plate.”
The two-homer inning gave the Rays six homers in the last seven innings. They went deep three times during a 10-run sixth inning against the Yankees on Thursday. The Rays have also hit 20 home runs in their last 10 games.
Josh Fleming (8-5) picked up the win. The lefty allowed eight hits and three runs (all earned) in five innings. He threw 35 of his 99 pitches in the fourth when he allowed two runs on four hits.
“They put a lot of pressure on us in the fourth inning and only picked up two runs,” said Cash. “It was a really nice job by Flem. He did a nice job of limiting their offense.”
Fleming escaped when he got Kike Hernandez to pop out with the bases loaded on a one-strike pitch.
“Once they scored their second run I was like, ‘Okay, limit the damage,'” said Fleming. “I thought I did a good job, when they loaded to bases, to settle down. I was able to make two good pitches (to Hernandez).”
Ryan Sherriff, JT Chargois, Louis Head and Jeffrey Springs each worked a scoreless inning in relief.
Chargois, acquired Thursday night in the deal that sent Diego Castillo to Seattle, was added to the active roster prior to Friday night’s game and made his Rays debut. The 30-year-old right-hander pitched a one-two-three seventh.
The series resumes Saturday night (6:10) when Ryan Yarbrough (6-4, 4.38) opposes Nathan Eovaldi (9-5, 3.49).
At Friday’s trade deadline, the Rays announced they acquired outfielder Jordan Luplow and right-handed pitcher DJ Johnson from Cleveland for minor league pitcher Peyton Battenfield, who split this season between High-A Bowling Green and Double-A Montgomery.
The right-handed hitting Luplow is a career .222 hitter with 30 home runs in 214 games. He was hitting .173 in 98 at-bats this season. Johnson has a 4.91 ERA in 36 career appearances, 35 with the Rockies (2018-19) before making one appearance this season with the Indians.
Earlier in the day, the Rays acquired right-handed reliever Shawn Armstrong from Baltimore for cash. He is 4-2 with five saves in 142 career appearances.
Tom Layberger is also a contributing writer for forbes.com and Tampa Business & Wealth Magazine