ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) In a tense and tight matchup of division leaders, Freddie Freeman and the Los Angeles Dodgers came out on top.
Freeman extended his hitting streak to 16 games, Max Muncy and Miguel Vargas homered, and the NL West-leading Dodgers beat the MLB-best Tampa Bay Rays 6-5 on Saturday.
Freeman finished 2 for 3 with two walks and is hitting .444 (28 for 63) with 18 RBIs during his streak.
Mookie Betts had an RBI single and Freeman followed with a run-scoring double off Colin Poche (3-1) as Los Angeles took a 5-4 lead in the seventh inning. Vargas added a solo shot in the eighth.
“That was a gritty win,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “So much respect for this Tampa team, the way they play. They don't give you anything. And for us to get a lead and lose it and come back and fight back, it was just overall just a good win - and now we have a chance to win a series.”
Harold Ramírez hit the Rays' major league-leading 100th homer, but Tampa Bay dropped to 25-6 at home. Tampa Bay reached 100 home runs in 54 games, fifth-fastest of any team since 1901.
Los Angeles has 84 home runs, which is second in the National League.
Neither starting pitcher, Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw nor Tampa Bay right-hander Tyler Glasnow, made it past the fifth inning.
Yency Almonte (3-0) worked a perfect sixth. Caleb Ferguson gave up Wander Franco's RBI single before getting his second save.
“This is such a great team win. ... I didn’t have anything to do with it, unfortunately,” Kershaw said. “The bullpen pitched four solid innings. Freddie, guys had clutch hits.”
Ferguson entered with one out in the ninth and allowed Taylor Walls' double. After striking out Jose Siri and walking Yandy Díaz, the left-hander permitted Franco's single to center field before getting a game-ending grounder from Ramírez.
Díaz, hitting .325 with a .429 on-base percentage, hit a ball with home run distance just foul down the right-field line before drawing his walk.
“That was scary,” Roberts said. “He's a scary hitter. I don't like him coming up to bat.”
Glasnow went 4 1/3 innings in his season debut after being sidelined by a strained left oblique. He allowed three runs and five hits while striking out eight in an 83-pitch outing. The 6-foot-8 righty was limited to 39 games from 2019-22 due to injuries.
“I wasn't perfect, but definitely liked coming back for the first one,” Glasnow said. “I'm happy with it.”
Kershaw went on the bereavement list Monday following the death of his mother. He was activated Friday and gave up four runs on six hits over five innings.
“Personally, it's frustrating,” said Kershaw, winless over his last three starts. “I had some good rhythm, good momentum going the first few innings. Just kind of lost it there. My command became very inconsistent.”
Kershaw beat Glasnow twice in the 2020 World Series as the Dodgers defeated Tampa Bay in six games. The lefty had also won his two prior regular-season starts against the Rays, posting a 1.88 ERA.
Manuel Margot had a two-run single in the fourth, and Ramírez put the Rays ahead 4-3 with his two-run homer to right.
Muncy, hitless in his previous 10 at-bats, connected on his 16th homer leading off the second. He hit an RBI double in the fourth and scored on a wild pitch to make it 3-0.
To make room for Glasnow on the roster, RHP Cooper Criswell was optioned to Triple-A Durham one day after getting his first big league win.
Dodgers LHP Julio Urías (left hamstring) had his scheduled Saturday bullpen session pushed back to Tuesday after experiencing some soreness throwing Friday.
Rays LHP Josh Fleming (1-0) will start or follow an opener against Dodgers rookie RHP Gavin Stone (0-0) in Sunday's game that starts at 11:35 a.m. EDT, which is 8:35 a.m. Los Angeles time.
“I was thinking about sleeping here. I've never stayed in the stadium,” Roberts joked.
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