ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Daniel Robertson grew up watching games at Angel Stadium and was in the stands when the Los Angeles Angels won the World Series in 2002.
Coming back home with the Tampa Bay Rays, Robertson could not have conceived the Big A would be the site of his first grand slam.
Robertson homered for the second consecutive game and the Rays held on after Mike Trout‘s ninth-inning homer for their sixth straight victory, 5-3 over the Angels on Saturday night.
The Rays are back at .500 for the first time since the second day of the season after winning 18 of their last 26 games.
“It’s not our end goal,” Robertson said. “We know we can compete. Teams go through ups and downs, and I’m just really proud of how we’re able to bounce back when we do lose a couple tough ballgames in a row and we’re able to get hot like this.”
Sergio Romo made his first career start after 588 appearances as a reliever, striking out the side in the first inning before being replaced by rookie left-hander Ryan Yarbrough as Rays manager Kevin Cash intended.
Yarbrough (4-2) gave up one run, four hits and one walk in 6 1/3 effective innings. He struck out four during his unconventional stint as a long reliever.
Trout’s two-run homer pulled the Angels within 5-3, but Alex Colome came in and got his 10th save.
Robertson’s fifth homer of the season was a deep shot to left-center that made it 4-0 in the second as the Rays capitalized on a throwing error by first baseman Jefry Marte that extended the inning. Marte’s underhanded lob after fielding a ground ball by Mallex Smith was well past the reach of Andrew Heaney going to the bag, giving Tampa Bay runners on first and second instead of ending the inning, and Jesus Sucre walked to load the bases.
Playing in front of hundreds of friends and family this weekend, Robertson was trying to recall if he had ever hit a grand slam as he trotted around the bases. Realizing it was his first at any level of baseball, Robertson said it was better than he could have imagined as a little kid watching the likes of Tim Salmon and Darin Erstad.
“I dreamed of hitting a home run in this stadium, and to hit the grand slam today, I was honestly laughing around the bases,” Robertson said. “It was too good to be true almost. You can’t make this stuff up.”
Heaney (2-3) took the loss without giving up an earned run. He allowed three hits and walked five in six innings while striking out seven, as the Angels lost their fifth in a row.
Marte drove in Ian Kinsler in the eighth to get the Angels on the board after Wilson Ramos had an RBI in the seventh to put the Rays up 5-0.
The Angels went 0 for 3 with runners in scoring position and are batting 7 for 47 (.149) over their last eight games.
“Your offense is really nine individual pieces and each guy has their own things on their own plate that they need to move forward with, and I think we’re starting to see some guys do it,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said.
DO IT AGAIN
After waiting 11 seasons to make his first start in the major leagues, Romo will be back on the mound to start the series finale on Sunday. Cash’s unconventional approach worked so well he plans to do it again, letting Romo pitch one or two innings before turning to left-handed starter Anthony Banda or right-handed relievers Matt Andriese or Austin Pruitt.
“I’m sure it will be talked about, but hopefully it works,” Cash said.
Cash was impressed with how Romo handled the temporary transition from relier to starter, a mindset that apparently didn’t take long to change.
“The way it worked out, Sergio is pumped,” Cash said. “He treated himself like a starter. I don’t think he’s here anymore, so he left to get his rest and get ready to throw one or two innings.”
TROUT ON TIME
Trout went 2 for 4, hitting a double in the fourth to go along with his 14th homer of the season. Trout has extra-base hits in three of his last five at-bats, including the solo home run in the eighth inning Friday that snapped his career-worst, 0-for-21 stretch.
Rays: SS Adeiny Hechavarria was placed on the 10-day disabled list retroactive to Friday because of a hamstring strain he sustained Thursday. RHP Ryne Stanek was recalled from Triple-A Durham to fill the open roster spot.
Angels: LF Justin Upton (left hand) returned to the lineup after being hit by a pitch Thursday. He went 0 for 4.
Rays: Romo (1-0, 4.67 ERA) threw 18 pitches to fan Zack Cozart, Trout and Upton, and Cash said he would have stayed in longer if not for Robertson’s grand slam.
Angels: RHP Shohei Ohtani (3-1, 3.58) allowed one run while striking out 11 in 6 1/3 innings in the Angels’ 2-1 win over Minnesota last Sunday. Ohtani has struck out at least 11 batters in two of his three home starts, and his 43 strikeouts through his first six starts are a franchise record.