ATLANTA — The Tampa Bay Rays are making the most of their knack for comebacks to stay close in the American League East Division race. The Atlanta Braves, despite another defeat in which their bullpen faltered, still have a legitimate shot at a fourth straight National League East title.
Yandy Diaz homered during a four-run rally in the seventh inning Sunday afternoon as the Rays beat the Braves 7-5.
The visitors trailed 3-0 after four innings and then 4-3 before completing their 28th comeback win of 2021 to take two of three in the interleague series at Truist Park. Tampa Bay's comeback wins are second in the majors this season only to the 29 by the Boston Red Sox, the team the Rays are chasing in the AL East.
"There's no quit in us," said Kevin Kiermaier, whose double in the seventh tied the game at 4 for the reigning division and AL champions. "Just don't ever count us out, no matter what, until that 27th out is made."
Kiermaier said he'd like to see the Rays start stronger in games to boost their chances of catching Boston.
"We'd much rather get out to a quicker start, but that's just kind of how it's been as of late," Kiermaier said. "It takes a few more innings for us to get our momentum going."
Kiermaier caught a long drive by Dansby Swanson before crashing into the wall in center field to end the fourth inning. He also stole a base.
The Braves (45-47) have not been above .500 this season but trail the first-place New York Mets by only four games in the NL East. The Philadelphia Phillies are in second place, two games ahead of Atlanta
"I still feel like we're capable of winning the division, honestly," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "We're in it till we're out of it. ... I'm still waiting to get on a run."
Joey Wendle singled and scored on Kiermaier's double off Atlanta reliever A.J. Minter (1-4) to tie it at 4 in the seventh. After Kiermaier stole third base, a sacrifice fly by Atlanta-area native Austin Meadows gave Tampa Bay the lead. Diaz added to the advantage with a two-run homer off Luke Jackson.
"That's two big wins we pulled out of here," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "We just collectively as a group came back."
Atlanta's second blown lead of the series again left the spotlight on the bullpen. Minter gave up a run while walking two batters in Friday night's 7-6 loss in 10 innings. He allowed two runs on two hits while recording only one out Sunday, leaving his ERA at 4.86.
"There's big chunks he's been really, really good, too," Snitker said. "... It's not just him. It's tough, and he's going through the grind right now."
Wander Franco's third homer of the season, in the sixth off Braves starter Drew Smyly, made it 3-all.
Tampa Bay starter Rich Hill allowed three runs in four innings. Left-hander Jeffrey Springs (5-1) gave up one hit while recording two outs. Pete Fairbanks pitched the ninth for his fifth save this year, including two in the series.
Ozzie Albies doubled home Freddie Freeman in the first to put Atlanta ahead 1-0.
The Braves added two runs in the fourth. Guillermo Heredia hit an RBI double, and after an infield hit by Smyly when Hill didn't cover first base, Joc Pederson's bases-loaded groundout drove in a run for a 3-0 lead.
Meadows' sacrifice fly drove in one run in Tampa Bay's two-run fifth. Brandon Lowe led off the inning with a single and scored from third on a wild pitch from Smyly.
Pederson, traded to Atlanta from the Chicago Cubs on Thursday, drove in two runs with two hits in his second start as the Braves' right fielder and leadoff hitter.
Veteran catcher Stephen Vogt, acquired by Atlanta from the Arizona Diamondbacks late Friday night for minor league first baseman Mason Berne, drove in a run and got three hits in his Braves debut. He also threw out Franco trying to steal second in the seventh.