With Austin Meadows back and a five-game losing streak snapped, things are looking up again for the Tampa Bay Rays.
And it couldn't come at a better time as the Rays seek to finish off a two-game sweep of the slumping Boston Red Sox on Wednesday at St. Petersburg, Fla. A win would put Tampa Bay back at .500 at the 20 percent mark of the 60-game season before hosting the New York Yankees for a pivotal four-game weekend series beginning Friday.
The Rays send left-hander Ryan Yarbrough (0-1, 1.54 ERA) to the mound looking to hand the Red Sox their fifth straight loss. Boston counters with southpaw Martin Perez (1-1, 5.06).
Offense had been a bugaboo for the Rays during their skid, with the team batting a collective .210 entering Tuesday's contest. With 2019 All-Star Meadows hitting leadoff in his return from the COVID-19 injury list and a little help from the home ballpark, Tampa Bay pounded out nine hits in besting Boston 5-1.
"We missed Austin in a lot of ways," said teammate Joey Wendle, who had three hits in the win. "His numbers last year speak for themselves, but I don't think that does what he did last year justice. Just the presence he was in our lineup makes the hitters around him better."
Meadows went 2-for-4 with an RBI triple on Tuesday, but the big blow came on a Hunter Renfroe two-run double in the fourth inning that was made possible when a foul ball off his bat that looked catchable bounced off one of the dome's roof rings at Tropicana Field. The Rays grabbed the lead, and the bullpen kept the Red Sox scoreless the rest of the way.
That isn't to say Boston didn't have its chances. The visitors wasted a two-on, one-out chance in the eighth inning before loading the bases with one out in the ninth. Nick Anderson came on for Tampa Bay and struck out Jose Peraza and Andrew Benintendi looking to end the game.
"We had opportunities to get those big hits that we've been looking for," Red Sox manager Ron Roenicke said. "... I know we haven't scored enough runs like we're going to."
Benintendi is particularly struggling at 2-for-29 and could get Wednesday off against the lefty Yarbrough. Fellow outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. snapped an 0-for-20 drought with a ninth-inning single Tuesday.
Yarbrough has been the Rays' most effective starter this season, though he took the loss despite holding the Atlanta Braves to two runs on two hits over 6 1/3 innings in his last outing. The 28-year-old is 3-1 with a 4.84 ERA lifetime in nine games (three starts) against the Red Sox.
After a shaky debut for Boston, Perez limited the New York Mets to two runs on two hits and four walks in 5 2/3 innings to earn the win in his last start. The 29-year-old has had a rocky past at Tropicana Field, where he is 1-3 with an 8.39 ERA in five games (four starts).
The Red Sox and Rays will meet again for a four-game series in Boston beginning Monday.
--Field Level Media