Tampa Bay’s offense had done nothing all night and Josh Lowe wasn’t at the plate until the sixth batter in the ninth.

It’s safe to say that the situation was not looking very good. But almost immediately after returning to the dugout after the eighth inning, the right fielder grabbed his helmet and batting mitts. There’s a reason the Rays have the best record in the majors, and he thought it might be necessary.

Sure enough, Lowe was the man who surrendered a two-run, two-out double in the ninth to lead Tampa Bay to a 3-2 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks on Wednesday night.

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Josh Lowe #15 of the Tampa Bay Rays celebrates after hitting a two-run double against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the ninth inning of an MLB game at Chase Field on June 28, 2023 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

«I had my batting helmet and gloves on from the first batter of the inning,» Lowe said. «I’m ready to play no matter what. If I get up to hit, I try to do something to help the team win. I was ready to play.»

The Rays were in danger of losing the best record in the majors to the Atlanta Braves, but Lowe’s big swing meant Tampa Bay kept the place it has held since the season began with 13 straight wins.

«Really clutch, I’m happy for Josh,» Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash. «We’ve got a number of guys who are working hard right now, and he’s probably one of them. He put a load on one and picked us up, obviously, with the biggest punch in the game.»

Tampa Bay trailed 2-0 entering the ninth, but Yandy Diaz and Wander Franco led off the inning with singles off Scott McGough. Luke Raley cut the lead to 2-1 with a single to the right side that brought home Diaz.

McGough recovered briefly, striking out Randy Arozarena and pulling Isaac Paredes to the line, but Lowe hit an 0-1 fastball into the left-center space that scored Franco and Raley.

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Luke Raley and Wander Franco celebrate

Tampa Bay Rays’ Luke Raley and Wander Franco (5) celebrate after scoring on Josh Lowe’s double hit during the ninth inning of a baseball game against the Arizona Diamondbacks, Wednesday, June 28, 2023, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)

McGough (0-6) had pitched 22 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings going into Wednesday’s game.

«The ninth inning is what makes this game so beautiful,» D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said. «You love him and you can hate him at the same time.»

In the bottom of the ninth, Franco made a diving catch at shortstop on a groundout, firing to first for the first out. Pete Fairbanks earned his ninth save. Diaz had three of the team’s six hits.

The Rays’ return negated a strong performance by Arizona’s Zach Davies, who had his best start to the season with seven shutout innings on two-hit ball. The right-hander entered the game with a 7.82 ERA in seven starts, but he coaxed the normally hard-hitting Rays into soft contact all night.

«He gave us an incredible seven innings,» Lovullo said.

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Zach Davies throws pitch

Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Zach Davies throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the Tampa Bay Rays, Wednesday, June 28, 2023, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)

Davies’ game-changer came at a very good time for the D-backs, who learned Tuesday they will be without standout right-hander Merrill Kelly for at least the next few weeks after a blood clot was found in his right calf. .

The Diamondbacks took a 1–0 lead in the third after three straight two-out singles by Alek Thomas, Jake McCarthy and Ketel Marte. They increased that margin to 2-0 in the fourth with another two-out single, this one by Carson Kelly that brought home Christian Walker.

Tampa Bay right-hander Zach Eflin pitched well, allowing two runs and seven hits in seven innings. He struck out seven. Colin Poche (6-2) pitched a scoreless eighth.

«Eflin was pretty special,» Cash said. «Any time he comes out with a guy, that efficient, pretty dominant, two-run guy, we feel like we’ve got to do enough offensively to give him the win.»

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Josh Lowe hits double

Josh Lowe #15 of the Tampa Bay Rays hits a two-RBI double against relief pitcher Scott McGough #30 of the Arizona Diamondbacks during the ninth inning of a MLB game at Chase Field on June 28, 2023 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

RYTHM CHANGE

Even with the loss, Arizona is on a 96-win pace at exactly halfway through the season. The D-backs lost 110 games just two seasons ago.

1998 BATTLE OF EXPANSION

The Diamondbacks-Rays series is a rare matchup of the two previous MLB expansion teams. Both came to the league in 1998 and are celebrating their 25th anniversary this season. The Rays have a 14-10 series lead.

COACHES ROOM

Rays: IF Taylor Walls struggles with mid-back pain every day. He was eliminated before Tuesday’s game.

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Pete Fairbanks celebrates with Francisco Mejía

Tampa Bay Rays relief pitcher Pete Fairbanks, right, celebrates with catcher Francisco Mejia after a baseball game against the Arizona Diamondbacks, Wednesday, June 28, 2023, in Phoenix. The Rays defeated the Diamondbacks 3-2. (AP Photo/Matt York)

UNTIL NEXT TIME

The teams conclude their three-game series on Thursday. The D-backs plan to start RHP Brandon Pfaadt (0-2, 8.37 ERA) while the Rays will counter with RHP Yonny Chirinos (3-3, 3.91 ERA).