ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Kelly Shoppach ignited the struggling Tampa Bay offense.
Shoppach hit his second career grand slam and a solo homer Saturday, leading the Rays to a 7-3 victory over the Baltimore Orioles.Trailing 3-0 in the fourth, Sean Rodriguez had an RBI double before Shoppach hit his slam to make it 5-3. Shoppach's solo shot in the eighth was just his third extra-base hit since June 30."I was battling," Shoppach said. "I just wanted to make sure to get a ball up that I could hit in the air."The Rays entered hitting just .209 since July 24. Tampa Bay had 15 hits Saturday off four Baltimore pitchers."It had to happen at some point, you'd like to think," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "We've had plenty of baserunners, a lot of opportunities. We've just not been able to finish the deal. And of course, hitting the grand slam really opened the floodgates."Tampa Bay's Andy Sonnanstine (3-1), making his second start for the injured Jeff Niemann, gave up three runs and three hits over five innings. Niemann, sidelined by a strained right shoulder, could rejoin the rotation within the next two weeks."It just kind of seemed like he threw everybody on his back and took us to a victory," Sonnanstine said of Shoppach.Adam Jones hit a three-run homer for the Orioles, who are 9-3 under new manager Buck Showalter.Brian Matusz (4-12) became the AL's second 12-game loser along with teammate Kevin Millwood. Matusz allowed five runs and nine hits in four innings.
"It was a game of a couple big innings," Showalter said.Shoppach's slam came one pitch after Matusz just missed getting a strikeout."I thought I made a pretty good 1-2 pitch, down and in," Matusz said. "I thought it was a well-located fastball. Didn't get the call, sometimes you're not. Then I elevated up in the zone and he was able to get good barrel on it."Shoppach's fourth-inning homer was the first by a Tampa Bay right-handed hitter since Jason Bartlett connected for a pinch-hit grand slam on August 5 against Minnesota. The Rays won for the third time in the last 10 games."I might have caught a break on the 1-2 pitch," Shoppach said. "It was really close."Shoppach tied a career high with five RBIs in his fifth multihomer game.Willy Aybar's fifth-inning run-scoring single extended Tampa Bay's lead to 6-3.Jones put the Orioles ahead 3-0 on his homer off Sonnanstine during the third. Jones is 6 for 11 with three homers overall against the right-hander.A base running gaffe cost Tampa Bay in the third. With runners on first and second, Bartlett hit a one-out single to center. Third base coach Tom Foley stopped Gabe Kapler, who was on second, at third, but B.J. Upton didn't stop at second and wound up at third, too. So Kapler broke for the plate and was thrown out."It's just like when you're driving down the street. Anytime you run into somebody from behind it's your fault," Maddon said. "He's just got to keep his head up right there."The Rays' third ended without a run when Carl Crawford grounded out.Baltimore loaded the bases with one out in the first, but failed to score when Jones fouled out and Felix Pie hit a grounder. The Orioles were 1 of 8 with runners in scoring position.
Tampa Bay pitchers retired 19 in a row after Jones' homer. The stretch ended when Matt Wieters hit a one-out double in the ninth. ... Shoppach also hit a grand slam on July 9, 2009, with Cleveland against the Chicago White Sox. Saturday's homers were his first since June 24. ... Jones has five RBIs in the last two games. ... Rays 1B Carlos Pena (sore right foot) is scheduled to play for Class-A Charlotte on Sunday and could return from the 15-day disabled list on Monday.