WASHINGTON -- Joey Butler's sixth-inning home run was not a towering blast or even a no-doubter. Still, the shot that seemed to just keep carrying before sneaking out of the right-field corner of Nationals Park was enough to pull Tampa Bay within one run and ignite a four-run inning in the Rays' 5-3 victory over the Nationals.
"That's usually where my power is, right field, center," Butler said. "I thought it might have a shot. I didn't think it was definitely a home run, but I thought it had a shot and, as I was running, it kept traveling."
Up until that first pitch of the sixth inning, Doug Fister's return from more than a month on the disabled list had been going swimmingly.
He allowed only one run in the second and escaped a two-on, no-out jam in the fourth.
Butler's home run brought the Rays within one, though, and two of the next three hitters reached, opening the door for even more.
"It put us one run closer. We had an opportunity where we were first and third one out [in the fourth inning]," manager Kevin Cash said. "We were getting close to piecing something together. Any time you can get within one, you are one swing of the bat away. Now, we didn't do that, we pieced together a big inning, more or less."
Fister only faced one more batter, Asdrubal Cabrera, who sent a single through the right side. Right fielder Bryce Harper slipped and injured himself while firing to the plate, sending the ball into the dugout, allowing both runners to score and putting Cabrera on third. Harper left under his own power after that play and was diagnosed with a mild left hamstring strain.
Harper and Fister were done for the game, but the Rays still had more work to do.
Cash called for David DeJesus to pinch-hit for Jake Elmore, and the veteran came through, sending a triple into center field with two outs to extend the lead to 5-3.
"The bench has been tremendous," Cash said. "Those guys are ready to hit. We want the guys out there supporting the team in the dugout, but we ask so much of them, be ready, so they're always in the cage hitting. We're yelling down trying to find people, but we found him. We picked the right guy."
Cash pinch-hit for his starter, Chris Archer, later in the sixth. From there, four relievers tag-teamed to secure the two-run advantage and improve the Rays to 38-30 on the year.
Jacob Emert is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.