ST. PETERSBURG -- Steven Souza Jr. led off the bottom of the ninth with his 24th homer of the season to give the Rays a 2-1 win Sunday afternoon at Tropicana Field, preventing the Brewers from completing a sweep of the three-game set.
"That was fun, and needed," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "It was getting exhausting there. My gosh, I was about to fall asleep the past three days. Credit our pitchers. An outstanding job. All three of our starters did everything they could to keep us in the ballgame. I know we came up short and only won the final game, but the final game meant a lot to us."
The win puts the Rays 5 1/2 games behind the Red Sox, who also won Sunday, in the American League East, and they are a half-game back of the Royals, who split a doubleheader Sunday against the Mariners, for the second AL Wild Card spot. The Brewers remain a half-game behind the first-place Cubs in the National League Central with Chicago's loss on Sunday to the Nationals.
Jacob Barnes took over for Brewers starter Jimmy Nelson to start the ninth, and Souza clobbered the second pitch from the right-hander, a 97.8 mph four-seamer, into the left-field stands to give the Rays their first walk-off home run since May 22, 2014.
Chris Archer had five scoreless innings under his belt when Orlando Arcia led off the Brewers' sixth with a solo home run, his second of the series. Arcia rerouted a 93.8 mph four-seamer 421 feet into the left-field stands. The barreled ball had an exit velocity of 101.0 mph with a 24-degree launch angle and tied the game at 1.
Archer held the Brewers to one run on three hits in six innings, but he came away with a no-decision. The right-hander has thrown at least six innings in 15 consecutive starts, the longest such streak of his career.
"We needed a really special start from Archer, and we got it," Cash said.
Nelson was impressive over eight innings for the Brewers, striking out nine and allowing one run on six hits. He finished his outing by striking out Logan Morrison with runners on first and second but didn't get any run support beyond Arcia's homer. The Brewers have scored three or fewer runs in nine of their last 10 games.
"Our pitching staff is doing a great job. We've got to give them some more room for error," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "You can't expect them to be absolutely perfect. We've got to find a way to put some runs on the board and give them a little bit of room for error."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Rays end drought: Brewers pitching shut out the Rays 2-0, and 3-0 in the first two games of the series, moving the Rays hitters' scoreless streak to 21 consecutive innings and the Brewers' pitchers scoreless streak to 23 innings. That changed in the second when Morrison singled to open the inning and Souza followed with a single. Brad Miller then walked to load the bases, and the Rays looked like they were in business to mint a big inning. Instead, Wilson Ramos grounded into a double play, which killed the rally, but scored Morrison to end the drought.
Dickerson robs Thames: Trailing 1-0 with two outs in the fourth, the Brewers looked to even the score when Eric Thames hit a sinking liner to left with Travis Shaw on second base. The ball appeared as though it would drop, but Rays left fielder Corey Dickerson closed fast to make a diving catch for the third out and prevent the tying run from scoring. The 5-star grab had an 18 percent catch probability with an opportunity time of 3.3 seconds. It was Dickerson's lowest catch probability on an out he recorded this season and it was his third 5-star grab of 2017.
"Corey Dickerson picked me up big time, because that would have been a run scored," Archer said.
To bunt or not to bunt? The Brewers were in business in the ninth inning when Thames led off with a single and Hernan Perez bunted for a hit. The Brewers rarely call for sacrifice bunts from position players, and with Keon Broxton and his team-high 37.9 percent strikeout rate on deck, opted not to order one from catcher Manny Pina, who has one sacrifice all season. Pina smashed a first-pitch fastball from Tommy Hunter, but it went right to shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria, who stepped on second base and threw to first for a double play. With the go-ahead runner now at third, Broxton bounced out to end a scoreless inning.
"Manny hit the ball really hard," Counsell said. "I think they were holding Thames on [at second] almost; it didn't look like he was in a normal shortstop position. Manny drove the ball really good, just right at a guy who was holding the runner on." More >
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Hunter recorded his first win of the season Sunday after pitching 1 1/3 innings of scoreless relief. Eighteen of the veteran right-hander's last 19 outings have been scoreless.
The Rays challenged in the fourth when Souza hit into a 5-4-3 inning-ending double play. After a 1-minute and 1-second review, the call on the field was overturned and Souza was safe at first base.
Brewers: The Brewers play their next four games against the Twins, beginning with a two-game set at Target Field. Brent Suter will be on the mound for Milwaukee against complete-game machine Ervin Santana in Monday's 7:10 p.m. CT opener.
Road team: The Rays are off Monday before the first-place Red Sox come to St. Petersburg for a two-game set. Austin Pruitt gets the nod Tuesday in a 7:10 ET game at Tropicana Field against Chris Sale. Last time out, Pruitt came away with a quality start and a win after holding the Astros scoreless for 6 1/3 innings en route to his seventh win of the season.