ANAHEIM, Calif. - Mike Zunino and the Tampa Bay Rays once again were able to rally against the Los Angeles Angels’ bullpen.
Zunino’s home run in the seventh inning began Tampa Bay’s comeback Thursday night. Brett Phillips continued the momentum with two hits during a seven-run eighth as the Rays completed a four-game sweep with an 8-3 victory.
"We were kind of biding our time, keeping it close and then when the big hit comes we ultimately find a way to win," manager Kevin Cash said after the defending AL champions extended their winning streak to five.
The Angels capped one of the most stunning days in franchise history by blowing a late three-run lead and dropping their fifth straight. Los Angeles began the day with a surprising move when it cut Albert Pujols, abruptly ending the 41-year-old superstar slugger’s decade-long tenure with the team.
Pujols, a three-time NL MVP for St. Louis, was in the final season of a 10-year, $240 million contract with the Angels, but was batting only .198 with five homers and 12 RBIs in 24 games.
The move didn’t appear to affect the Angels early on as Andrew Heaney pitched 6 2/3 innings and stymied the Rays with 10 strikeouts while allowing only four hits. But the bullpen imploded.
"It has been a weird week, that’s for sure, with lots of guys coming in and leaving. We are going through a storm and we have to weather it," said Mike Mayers, who allowed four runs in one-third of an inning. "We’re not winning right now. Tonight landed on me and I take that personally."
Zunino began the rally quickly after Heaney exited with a solo shot to left field off Mayers (1-2) in the seventh. The Rays then broke it open in the eighth, sending 12 batters to the plate and getting six hits off three Angels pitchers.
"I was happy (Heaney) was out of the game, to be honest. He had great stuff," Zunino said. "You have to try to get to the bullpen and get things going, then we could stick to our game plan."
Tampa Bay’s first five hitters reached base in the eighth. Phillips began the outburst with a single and scored on Randy Arozarena’s double to right-center. Arozarena tied it at 3-all when he came home on Manuel Margot’s single. Margot stole second and third and gave the Rays the lead when he continued home on Kurt Suzuki’s passed ball.
Yandy Díaz and Zunino followed with RBI singles before Phillips added a two-run double the second time he was up in the eighth.
The Angels’ bullpen has allowed 78 runs, second-most in the majors.
Josh Fleming (2-3) got the win for the Rays, who swept a four-game road series for only the third time since 2012. The left-hander allowed three runs in five innings after Collin McHugh opened with two shutout innings and five strikeouts.
Shohei Ohtani hit his 10th home run of the season for the Angels. It is the second time this season he has homered the day after pitching, which is the first time that’s happened in the modern era, according to STATS.
Los Angeles scored all its runs in the third. Juan Lagares led off with a double off the wall in right-center and scored on Phil Gosselin’s double down the left-field line. Gosselin tried to score on David Fletcher’s bloop single to left but was thrown out by Arozarena.
Ohtani drove in Fletcher one pitch later when he launched Fleming’s sinker into the left-field stands. The two-run shot tied Ohtani with Boston’s J.D. Martinez and Atlanta’s Ronald Acuña Jr. for the major league lead in homers.
"We have to finish games off and add on runs. The margins are so small and we have to get on the right side of it," Angels manager Joe Maddon said.
ALL FOR NAUGHT
Heaney has thrown six or more shutout innings twice this season. His first six outs came via strikeout, the first time an Angels pitcher had done that since JC Ramirez in 2017.
"I was hitting my spots, putting myself into better counts and not having useless pitches," he said. "I had three pitches going that I felt confident throwing for strikes."
Heaney allowed seven runs in three innings during his season debut, but has gone 2-1 with a 2.05 ERA in his last five.
Rays: 2B Brandon Lowe, who hit a three-run homer in Wednesday’s win, and CF Kevin Kiermaier got the night off. Lowe is 1 for 32 against left-handed pitchers this season.
Angels: RHP Chris Rodriguez (right shoulder inflammation) and C Max Stassi (concussion) were placed on the injured list. ... RHP Félix Peña was reinstated from the IL after a six-week stint due to a right hamstring strain.
Rays: LHP Rich Hill (1-1, 6.39 ERA) takes the hill for Friday’s opener of a three-game series at Oakland. He has gone to his curveball on 39.9% of his pitches, which leads the majors.
Angels: Remain at home for the Freeway Series against the Dodgers. RHP Griffin Canning (2-2, 6.20 ERA) looks to have another strong start after allowing only one unearned run with nine strikeouts in a May 1 win at Seattle.