ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Starlin Castro hit an RBI double during a two-run 11th inning and the Washington Nationals beat the AL East-leading Tampa Bay Rays 9-7 on Wednesday night.
Castro opened the 11th with his hit against Diego Castillo (2-3) and came home on a sacrifice fly by Josh Harrison to make it 9-7.
Tanner Rainey had runners on first and second with no outs in the bottom of the inning but escaped for his first save. He struck out Manuel Margot, got a fielder’s choice grounder from Yandy Díaz and fanned Austin Meadows.
“It was a battle,” Washington manager Dave Martinez said. “These guys fought to the end. I’m proud of the boys. These guys have big hearts.”
Ryan Zimmerman had his 27th career multi-homer game and Juan Soto also went deep for the Nationals, who had lost nine of 12.
“We sometimes feel a little bit bad because we’re too good, how we’ve been playing,” Castro said. “We have a lot of good hitters on this team. We just have to continue to grind it out.”
Tampa Bay rookie Taylor Walls hit his first big league homer and Joey Wendle connected on his first pinch-hit home run. The Rays are 20-5 since May 13.
“I’m not frustrated,” manager Kevin Cash said. “We shouldn’t be frustrated. We did everything within our power to win the ballgame. Very pleased with the way we went at it. We just fell short.”
Yan Gomes had an RBI single and Kyle Schwarber added a sacrifice fly that put Washington up 7-5 in the 10th.
Randy Arozarena led off the bottom half with a run-scoring triple against Brad Hand and scored to make it 7-all on Wendle’s single.
“It’s encouraging to see us score runs like that and battle back,” Wendle said. “I don’t think there’s anything we look back at that game with huge regret. I think we got beat. It just was one of those, especially toward the end, back and forth. We were on the wrong end of it.”
Zimmerman tied it at 3 on a third-inning solo shot off Shane McClanahan, and put the Nationals ahead 5-3 on a two-run blast against Jeffrey Springs in the fifth.
Walls got Tampa Bay within one on his seventh-inning solo homer off Kyle Finnegan before Wendle pulled the Rays even at 5 on his drive in the eighth against Daniel Hudson.
Soto hit a two-run homer in the first. All eight of his homers have come on the road.
Patrick Corbin walked his first three batters during a 35-pitch first inning before the Rays took a 3-2 lead on Arozarena’s two-run single off the center-field wall and a sacrifice fly by Mike Brosseau.
Corbin overcame the rough first to go five innings in which he allowed three runs, three hits, walked four and had three strikeouts. He finished with 93 pitches.
McClanahan lasted just three innings, allowing three runs, five hits, three walks and striking out four in a 75-pitch outing.
The Rays announced that Triple-A Durham pitcher Tyler Zombro, hit in the head by a batted ball June 3, was discharged from Duke University Hospital. He will stay in Durham and continue with his outpatient occupational and speech therapy.
Washington RHP Stephen Strasburg (neck strain) has not resumed throwing and Martinez said there’s a good chance the pitcher might see another specialist in the next few days.
“It’s nerve irritation,” Martinez said. “We want it to go away, quiet down a little bit. We’ll see what happens in the next couple days.”
Rays: 1B Ji-Man Choi (groin) could play in extended spring training games Friday and Saturday. … RHP Chris Archer (forearm tightness) expects to throw off a mound next week.
Nationals: RHP Max Scherzer (5-4) will face San Francisco RHP Anthony DeSciafani (5-2) on Thursday night. It will be the first game with full seating capacity at Nationals Park since 2019.
Rays: LHP Ryan Yarbrough (3-3) is Friday night’s scheduled starter against Baltimore. He stopped Tampa Bay’s MLB-record of 731 consecutive games without a complete game June 3 at Yankee Stadium.
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