Diaz homers during 7th-inning rally, Rays beat Braves 7-5

Sports

Atlanta Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman (5) is shown against the Tampa Bay Rays during a baseball game Sunday, July 18, 2021, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

ATLANTA (AP) — Tampa Bay is making the most of its knack for comebacks to stay close in the AL East.

Yandy Diaz homered during a four-run rally in the seventh inning and the Rays beat the Atlanta Braves 7-5 on Sunday.

The Rays trailed 3-0 after four innings and 4-3 before completing their 28th come-from-behind win to win two of three in the series. It is the second-most comeback wins in the majors to the 29 by the AL East-leading Boston Red Sox with 29, the team Tampa Bay is chasing.

“There’s no quit in us,” said Kevin Kiermaier, whose double in the seventh tied the game at 4. “Just don’t ever count us out, no matter what, until that 27th out is made.”

Kiermaier said he’d like to see the Rays start stronger in games to boost their chances of catching Boston.

“We’d much rather get out to a quicker start but that’s just kind of how it’s been as of late,” Kiermaier said. “It takes a few more innings for us to get our momentum going.”

Kiermaier caught a long drive by Dansby Swanson before crashing into the center-field wall to end the fourth. He also stole a base.

The Braves (45-47) have not been above .500 this season but trail the first-place New York Mets by only four games in the NL East.

“I still feel like we’re capable of winning the division, honestly,” manager Brian Snitker said. “We’re in it till we’re out of it. … I’m still waiting to get on a run.”

Joey Wendle singled and scored on Kiermaier’s double off A.J. Minter (1-4) to tie it at 4 in the seventh. After Kiermaier stole third base, Austin Meadows’ sacrifice fly to gave Tampa Bay the lead.

Diaz added to the lead with his two-run homer off Luke Jackson.

“That’s two big wins we pulled out of here,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “We just collectively as a group came back.”

Wander Franco’s third homer in the sixth off Braves starter Drew Smyly made it 3-all.

Tampa Bay starter Rich Hill allowed three runs in four innings. Left-hander Jeffrey Springs (5-1) gave up one hit while recording two outs. Pete Fairbanks pitched the ninth for his fifth save, including two in the series.

Ozzie Albies doubled home Freddie Freeman in the first to put Atlanta ahead 1-0.

The Braves added two runs in the fourth. Guillermo Heredia hit an RBI double and following an infield hit by Smyly when Hill didn’t cover first base, Joc Pederson’s bases-loaded groundout drove in a run for a 3-0 lead.

Meadows’ sacrifice fly drove in one run in Tampa Bay’s two-run fifth. Brandon Lowe led off the inning with a single and scored from third on a wild pitch from Smyly.

Pederson, traded to Atlanta from the Chicago Cubs on Thursday, drove in two runs with two hits in his second start as the Braves’ right fielder and leadoff hitter.

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