Brett Phillips is a jack of all trades for the Tampa Bay Rays, who will open a three-game series against the Minnesota Twins on Friday night in St. Petersburg, Fla.
In 11 games this season, Phillips has already appeared at three positions — including pitcher — plus he’s seen action as a pinch hitter and pinch runner.
He had a pair of two-out, RBI singles and a key defensive play Thursday as the Rays defeated the Seattle Mariners 2-1 for their fourth win in the past five games.
With the score tied in the seventh inning and Harold Ramirez on third base, Phillips hit a grounder up the middle. The ball deflected off the leg of Mariners pitcher Chris Flexen and into shallow left field to bring home what proved to be the winning run.
“Second at-bat with two strikes, I’m just trying to put the ball in play,” Phillips said. “It would have been interesting if he let that ball go, but that’s the human element of the game. He was trying to be competitive and knock it down.”
Phillips’ defensive play was just as big.
In the top of the ninth, Seattle’s J.P. Crawford led off with a single. With one out, rookie Julio Rodriguez hit a shallow fly ball to right that deflected off the glove of second baseman Brandon Lowe.
Phillips was right there to pick up the ball and throw to second to force out Crawford, who had to wait to see if the ball would be caught.
“That’s a tough play,” Phillips said. “It’s a blooper, and I was charging in hard just in case that were to happen. I’m glad it worked out the way it did. All around, it was a good baseball play.”
Tampa Bay opener Jeffrey Springs allowed the only Seattle run, and his fellow relievers combined for 6 1/3 scoreless innings.
“Our bullpen has been amazing,” said right-hander Ryan Thompson, who got the final out for his second save of the season. “This year, especially with some of the injuries we’ve had … our bullpen has kind of had to take a lot more load. …
“I think we’re just doing a really good job being a team down there in the bullpen and just picking each other up and keeping each other in the game and making sure we’re all prepared for whatever situation.”
The Rays will face a tough test Friday against a Minnesota team that has won seven consecutive games, including a 7-1 victory Thursday against the visiting Detroit Tigers.
Twins shortstop Carlos Correa, the surprise free agent signing of the offseason, went 3-for-5 with a double and three RBIs.
“We’re having a lot of fun,” Correa said. “I was telling them, I … love this team. I … love to be part of this culture. You guys can see it when you walk into this clubhouse. Everybody’s a family. Everybody’s together. …
“It’s pretty special, what we’re building here.”
The Twins’ patchwork rotation has been stellar with a 2.39 ERA, the second-best mark in the majors.
Dylan Bundy (3-0, 0.59 ERA), the Twins’ scheduled Friday starter, has allowed just one run total while winning all three of his starts this season. The right-hander is 5-6 with a 6.19 ERA in 14 career appearances (13 starts) against Tampa Bay.
Talking about keeping up the team’s string of strong starting pitching, Bundy said, “You want to either do the same or do better than the guy previous (to you) because you believe in yourself and have confidence.”
Right-hander Corey Kluber (0-1, 3.68 ERA) is set to start for the Rays. He is 9-7 with a 3.40 ERA in 23 career starts against the Twins.
–Field Level Media