Resilient Rays battle Indians with playoff contention on line

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Mired in a five-game slump that had seen them score five runs in 52 innings, the Tampa Bay Rays needed a big hit on Thursday night.

Corey Dickerson came through in a way that could help turn things around. Dickerson's three-run home run with two outs in the eighth broke a tie and gave the Rays a much-needed win.

As Tampa Bay (59-57) continues to hover above .500 and remain in the thick of the American League wild-card chase, close wins can count even more for building an up-and-down team's confidence.

"It's been a pretty tough couple of weeks that the whole team, not just me, has had to battle," Dickerson said after breaking out of a 0-for-21 slump. "I think a lot of the energy has been coming back. You never know who it's going to be that day, and that's what is cool about this team."

As they begin a tough four-game series against the Cleveland Indians on Friday, the Rays will send another young pitcher in rookie Jake Faria, who is 5-2 with a 2.81 ERA in an impressive start to his career.

In six of his 11 starts, he has lasted at least six innings and allowed one run or fewer. That matches the most such starts by any pitcher in his first 11 starts since 1913.

Faria has never faced the Indians, but he has handled AL Central teams very well, going 2-0 with a 1.35 ERA in wins against the Chicago White Sox and Detroit Tigers.

Cleveland will counter with right-hander Carlos Carrasco, who is 10-5 with a 4.06 ERA and has seven wins on the road. His 3.44 road ERA is the seventh-lowest in the American League.

He has made seven starts against Tampa Bay, going 3-3 with a 3.23 ERA. In one outing earlier this year, he lasted only 3 2/3 innings, giving up five runs on six hits and taking a no-decision.

Cleveland (60-52) has lost four of its last five games but still leads the Minnesota Twins by 3 1/2 games and the Kansas City Royals by four in the AL Central.

The prospect of playing for a postseason team is intriguing for newcomer Jay Bruce, who made his Indians debut Thursday after being acquired from the New York Mets.

"You can't ask for anything else, honestly," Bruce said of the chance to play in the postseason. "The opportunity to come to a team of this caliber in the position that they are in, I'm just excited to get here and help out as much as I can."

The Rays have been outscored in late innings by a large margin this season, but Thursday was the kind of finish they need to have to stay contenders.

Reliever Tommy Hunter entered the game with the go-ahead run at third and got five big outs to earn the win in relief. The bats came through late, something they'll need again over the weekend to outhit a potent Indians lineup that has struggled recently.

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