Bally Sports Sun TV analyst Brian Anderson suggested, hopefully, that the bottom of the Rays batting order keep the game alive long enough to at least bring Randy Arozarena to the plate one more time in the ninth inning. Arozarena came in having hit two home runs, providing most of Tampa Bay’s offense to that point.
“The Rays absolutely need to find a way to get this wrapped around to Arozarena,” Anderson said with Francisco Mejia standing in to start the inning against left-hander and closer-for-the-day Tanner Scott on the mound.
The 7-8-9 batters did their job, and while Arozarena didn’t hit a third home run, he did bloop a single to load the bases that helped to keep the rally going for Austin Meadows, who came up with two outs and the Rays still down a run to the Orioles.
After falling behind 0-and-2 and fouling off four pitches total against Scott, Meadows turned around a 96.5 mph fastball that was up and away for a line-drive single to center. It scored two runs easily, including pinch-runner Kevin Kiermaier from second base, to give the Rays a 5-4 victory Wednesday afternoon.
“We’re just never out of it, man,” said Meadows, who came away with his first career game-ending hit. “I feel like, as a team, our at-bats and pitching just get better as the game goes on, even if we’re in tight games. The momentum builds on our side, even if we’re down a couple of runs.”
In addition to at least keeping pace with the Red Sox in the AL East race, the Rays also tied them for the most comeback victories in MLB with 29. More than half of Tampa Bay’s 57 overall victories have been come-from-behind efforts. It also was the 11th time this season they won in their last at-bat.
Collin McHugh kept the Orioles off the scoreboard for the final two innings, striking out three, picking up the victory and lowering his ERA to 1.51 in 41 ⅔ innings.
Scott, who came in having blown just one save opportunity all season, appeared on the verge of getting out of it by striking out rookie Vidal Bruján before Meadows completed the comeback. Meadows said he wanted to stay on Scott’s fastball because he figured Scott didn’t want to spike a breaking ball in the dirt and allow the Rays to tie the score on a wild pitch.
“Meadows has hit the ball hard lately but didn’t have anything to show for it,” manager Kevin Cash said. “I’m glad he found some turf with it.”
Meadows has 65 RBIs, tied for ninth in the majors, which Cash credited to the hitter’s confidence, plus his ability to control the strike zone and put the ball in play when necessary, along with frequent opportunities provided by teammates.
Meadows got the final hit, but it would not have come together for the Rays without Mejia hitting a single and Mike Zunino (one out later) drawing a walk before Arozarena’s single put the winning run in scoring position. The bottom of the Rays order, including subs, combined to go 4-for-11 with a walk and three runs scored on the day.
“Hats off to the guys, giving really good at-bats to get on base,” Meadows said.
Just like the Rays’ TV booth drew up at the start of the inning.