ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The Trop came alive Monday. And so did the feisty Rays.
They slugged their way to a 10-3 win over the Astros in Game 3 of the ALDS after getting dominated the first two games in Houston. Tropicana Field is usually a baseball tomb, quiet except for the annoying noise generated by the scoreboard operation. But this was a rabid towel-waving crowd of 32,251.
Designated hitter Tommy Pham made the perfect comment about the crowd, saying, “About time.’’
These Rays should be appreciated more by the home crowd. They are plucky, a talented group that can give any team fits. They took care of the A’s in Oakland in the wild-card game and finally returned home to play Toronto after a three-city, two-country tour.
Former Met Travis d’Arnaud helped get the ball rolling for the Rays in the second inning when he got hit by a pitch from Zack Greinke to set the stage for Kevin Kiermaier’s three-run home run.
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“We trust the guy behind us,’’ d’Arnaud said. “Anybody in our lineup can hit a home run. That ball was just coming up and in at me and you just have to wear it, man. And we have ice here.”
This was the first time since a game in 2016 when the Rays pulled back the upper deck tarps to squeeze more fans into the ballpark.
“The crowd hyped us all up,’’ d’Arnaud said. “Being down 2-0 to that team is not fun, but when you got a crowd like this giving us a lot of energy, especially on a 1 o’clock day game it helped a lot. We’re ready for the challenge of [Justin] Verlander on Tuesday, hopefully get his pitch count up and it helps having seen him once already.’’
The Rays will counter with a bullpen game but d’Arnaud said, don’t mistake the Rays relievers for just any bullpen game.
“They are all fearless,’’ he said. “They all believe in each other and the system they have here to mix and match different looks. It looks the same out of their hands but the ball is doing completely different things.’’
Rays pitching has shut down the Astros outfielders the entire series. And their hitters battle as A.J. Hinch said, pointing to the d’Arnaud at-bat in the second inning.
“I think the d’Arnaud hit by pitch was the extra — it’s not an error, like an error,’’ Hinch said. “That’s the extra at-bat that if we can get him out there, that inning changes completely. But he goes in, he hits him, and then it sets the stage for Kiermaier for one big swing. It’s kind of the same swing Kiermaier took at the end of the game the other day [in Game 2] when he hit the double.’’
The feisty Rays have been doing it all year.