ST. PETERSBURG -- Erasmo Ramirez gave the Rays a quality start and the offense broke loose after two nights of frustration as the Rays defeated the Angels, 5-2, on Wednesday night at Tropicana Field.
Making his third start of the season, Ramirez allowed two runs on four hits and a walk Wednesday against the Angels en route to his third win of the season. He is 2-0 with a 2.76 ERA in three starts this season.
Albert Pujols' two-run homer in the first proved to be the only blemish on Ramirez's line. But the Rays did not trail for long.
"When I fell behind, 3-1, I tried to be aggressive instead of being careful with Pujols," Ramirez said. "He still has power, and he showed me that in that first at-bat. After that I just started throwing more strikes. And no more falling behind."
When the Rays batted in the second, they had not scored in 18 consecutive innings. Steven Souza Jr. changed that with a two-run homer off Ricky Nolasco to tie the score at 2.
Corey Dickerson and Kevin Kiermaier strung together consecutive doubles in the third to put the Rays ahead, then Colby Rasmus and Souza came through with back-to-back homers to start the seventh, chasing Nolasco while padding the Rays' lead.
Nolasco fell to 2-4 on the season after allowing five runs on seven hits -- including three homers -- over six innings. The 34-year-old veteran has surrendered 16 home runs in 2017, tied with the Padres' Jered Weaver for second most in the Majors. Only the Astros' Mike Fiers (17) has yielded more homers this season.
"It seems like right now, [Nolasco's] fastball command isn't quite as crisp as it was at the end of last year when he pitched well for us," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "I think he is getting there. He is close and is taking strides forward, but at times he's missing with his two-seamer and his four-seamer over the heart of the plate, and those guys aren't missing it right now."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Back to back: With the Rays clinging to a one-run lead, Rasmus led off the seventh with his fifth home run of the season, a barreled ball to right that traveled 391 feet and had an exit velocity of 108.2 mph, according to Statcast™. Souza followed with his second homer of the game, a 403-foot barreled ball to left that had an exit velocity of 104.5 mph with a 25-degree launch angle. The home runs gave the Rays a three-run cushion heading into the game's final two innings. The Rays have hit back-to-back homers five times this season, which ranks first in the Major Leagues.
Closer to 600: Pujols might be a little long in the tooth, but he still can turn on a pitch and put one into the cheap seats. In his first at-bat, the veteran slugger jumped on a 3-1 two-seamer from Ramirez and re-routed the 89.9-mph offering 392 feet into the left-field stands. The blast had an 96.7-mph exit velocity with a 27-degree launch angle. Pujols now has 597 career home runs, and needs only three more to become the ninth player in Major League history to reach 600.
"He's going to get there," Scioscia said. "It'll happen, and we're looking forward to it. We've got a lot on our plate right now. Albert, when he gets there, he'll know he contributed, so he'll feel good about it. It's an incredible accomplishment, no doubt about that."
"My mindset is executing pitches no matter my role. It's been the whole year like that, and it's been working." -- Ramirez
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
When Evan Longoria drew a walk in the bottom of the third, it marked the 543rd free pass of his career, surpassing Ben Zobrist for the Rays' franchise record. Longoria is also the Rays' all-time leader in home runs, RBIs, doubles, extra-base hits, games played and total bases.
The Rays challenged a ruling in the sixth that saw Logan Morrison picked off at second base. After a delay of 1 minute, 32 seconds, the call on the field stood.
WHAT'S NEXT Angels: Right-hander Daniel Wright (0-0, 5.54 ERA) will make a spot start in place of the injured Alex Meyer on Thursday as the Angels close out their four-game series with the Rays at Tropicana Field. First pitch is scheduled for 10:10 a.m. PT.
Rays:Matt Andriese (4-1, 3.75) gets the nod for Tampa Bay in the 1:10 p.m. ET contest. He is 1-0 with a 0.90 ERA in two appearances against the Angels, both coming last season.