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Rays look to tomorrow with Mikie Mahtook, Tim Beckham

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The future looks like Mikie Mahtook, stroking another pitch into the outfield, collecting five hits in five at-bats.

The future looks like Tim Beckham, hitting a two-run homer over the left field fence.

Every day, as today’s pennant race gets away from them, the Tampa Bay Rays look more and more like tomorrow’s team. Certainly, Friday night’s effort flashed next season for the Rays in an 8-6 victory over Baltimore.

Mahtook led the way, becoming the eighth Ray to go five-for-five. He was so good, in fact, he drove his batting average from 250 clear to .301. He had two doubles and three singles.

But it isn’t just Mahtook that gives 2016 some hope. The Rays have used a club-record 18 rookies this year. Their nine rookie pitchers have thrown 234.1 innings, going 23-22 with four saves and a 3.81 record. Their rookie hitters have now hit 49 home runs, the most of any team in the American League and second in the majors.

The Orioles took a 3-0 lead in the second, but Beckham hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the inning and, in the fifth, the Rays added six more runs. The Rays held on to win 8-6.

Brad Boxberger finished the game with his 35th save of the season.

Drew Smyley threw 5 2/3 innings to run his record to 3-2. Erasmo Ramirez pitches for the Rays today against Baltimore’s Wei-Yin Chen.

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Gary Shelton is one of the most recognized and honored sportswriters in the history of the state. He has won the APSE's national columnist of the year twice and finished in the top 10 eight times. He was named the Florida Sportswriter of the Year six times. Gary joined SaintPetersBlog in the spring, helping to bring a sports presence to the website. Over his time in sports writing, Gary has covered 29 Super Bowls, 10 Olympics, Final Fours, Masters, Wimbledons and college national championships. He was there when the Bucs won a Super Bowl, when the Lightning won a Stanley Cup and when the Rays went to a World Series. He has seen Florida, FSU and Miami all win national championships, and he covered Bear Bryant, Bobby Bowden and Don Shula along the way. He and his wife Janet have four children: Eric, Kevin, K.C. and Tori. To contact, visit garysheltonsports@gmail.com.

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