Byrnes, D-backs burn Rays in finale
Outfielder collects four hits, while club earns series win
PHOENIX -- Maybe it was the 12:40 p.m. local start time for Eric Byrnes.The D-backs outfielder missed a cycle by a triple, in going 4-for-5 with a three-run home run to lead Arizona to a 7-4 win over the Devil Rays in front of 31,805 at Chase Field. "I don't sleep a lot, so these late-night games followed by a day game, advantage Byrnes," he said. In his last at-bat, Byrnes hit a little dribbler to the pitcher leading off the eighth to come up short of the second cycle of his career. "I know that last time up, if he hit a ball in the gap, he wasn't going to be stopping at second base; I guarantee you that," manager Bob Melvin said. "Even if it was a single, he might not have stopped at second base. That's what he's given us all year is that kind of energy." Besides the near cycle, Byrnes reached base seven consecutive times dating back to Tuesday night's game to tie a franchise record last accomplished by Alex Cintron in 2003. "If I knew eight would have been a club record, I would have gone for that," Byrnes said. "I just hit a little groove." Much like the rest of the year, Byrnes' bat set the tone for a D-backs attack that banged out seven runs on 15 hits. Arizona scored six runs on 10 hits in the five innings pitched by Tampa Bay starter James Shields (6-2), the most runs he's allowed in a start all season. "Byrnsie is a big piece of our offense, and when he's going good, then usually we're all going good, because he's in that leadoff spot and he's always on base, and he's giving us opportunities behind him," said Chad Tracy, who joined Byrnes in hitting early three-run homers to help Arizona jump out to a 6-0 lead. The D-backs scored 14 unanswered runs against the Devil Rays, counting Tuesday night's comeback from six runs down after jumping on Tampa Bay early. Melvin said that the win helped his squad mentally on Wednesday with less than 10 hours between Tuesday night's victory, which lasted a season-long four hours and five minutes, and first pitch on Wednesday. "You lose last night in that fashion, and then go out there against Shields today -- psychologically, it's a whole different ballgame today -- so that ended up being a huge win for us," Melvin said. Micah Owings went home before Tuesday's game ended and came out sharp to begin Wednesday's contest. He cruised through the first four innings, giving up one hit and striking out seven. After Akinori Iwamura advanced to third base with no outs in the third following an error, Owings struck out the Devil Rays' Nos. 2-4 hitters in order. He also stranded the leadoff hitter in the second at third base.
"It's huge," Melvin said. "That's the kind of guy he is. His stuff is good, and it seems to elevate when he needs to make a pitch. The velocity will go up, the tenacity of each pitch will be a little bit better. That's just the way he is, that's just the way he's built, and it showed up that [third] inning, big time."Owings struggled thereafter, allowing four runs on seven hits in the final 1 2/3 frames of his outing. The four earned runs he allowed in 5 2/3 innings marked only the second time he has given up that many this season. Still, with the offense's support, Owings (5-1) earned the victory. "I'm just trying to keep the team in a position to win the game," Owings said. "I felt real good out of the chute, fresh early on, and then not as sharp toward the end as I would have liked to have been." When Owings departed with a 6-4 lead, the bullpen shut the door for the second straight game. A day after the bullpen held Tampa Bay hitless over the final five innings to allow an Arizona comeback to materialize, the bullpen gave up one hit over the final 3 1/3 innings to prevent a similar Devil Rays comeback from six down. Setup men Tony Pena and Brandon Lyon were in the middle of it for the second straight game, combining for 2 1/3 scoreless innings a day after throwing three perfect innings of relief together. "Those guys are huge for us," Melvin said. "We feel like if we can get the ball in those guys' hands leading up to [Jose] Valverde, we have a good chance to win." Valverde finished the game off with his 23rd save in 26 chances. The save tied Matt Mantei's all-time franchise record with 74 for his D-backs career. At the end of the day, Arizona found a way to take another series and win five of six overall against American League East teams, after losing five of six to New York and Boston to start Interleague Play. Melvin attributed that in part to doing a better job grinding out at-bats to make the pitcher work harder. "All those things end up being factors when you get deeper in the game," Melvin said. "That's what the Yankees do, that's what the Red Sox do. It may not show up in the early innings, but at the end it ends up showing up, and that's the type of team we envision being, and I think we're working toward that."
Michael Schwartz is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.