ST. PETERSBURG -- When the Rays acquired Isaac Paredes on April 5, they knew they were getting a versatile young infielder with an intriguing blend of plate discipline and bat-to-ball skills. They thought there was more to come, too. The day after the deal went down, Tampa Bay president of baseball operations Erik Neander said they identified “signs of greater impact” in Paredes’ bat.
Paredes' power is showing up now, and it made a big impact in the Rays’ 5-4 win over the Yankees on Tuesday night at Tropicana Field. He broke out with the seventh three-homer game in franchise history, going deep twice in his first two at-bats against Yankees left-hander Nestor Cortes, then again off reliever Clarke Schmidt in his third plate appearance.
“That's pretty special,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “That's a day he will not forget.”
Acquired from the Tigers for outfielder Austin Meadows just before Opening Day, Paredes began the season with Triple-A Durham before coming up on May 1 and taking on a bigger role recently in a Rays lineup racked by injuries. Tampa Bay had been intrigued for years by Paredes’ skill set, and his coaches and teammates have spoken highly of his quality at-bats despite his unimpressive batting average to this point.
“He has a very professional at-bat for not a lot of reps at the big league level,” Cash said. “He goes about his business. He's a pretty quiet guy, but you can tell he knows what he's trying to do when he goes to the plate. Not that he's trying to hit three home runs, but every at-bat, it feels like it's just a very competitive at-bat for him -- and tonight [he] took it to another level.”
But who predicted the 23-year-old Paredes leading the team in home runs on the first day of summer?
“It’s a beautiful thing,” Paredes said through interpreter Manny Navarro. “I'm glad I was able to experience that.”
So were the Rays, who have been searching for offense with five key hitters on the injured list. Over the past nine games, they’d hit three homers as a team. Naturally, Paredes matched that total in his first three trips to the plate. And he’s now hit eight homers in his past 23 games, compared to the two homers he hit over the first 65 games of his Major League career.
Where’s all this power coming from, anyway?
“I'm not 100 percent sure,” Paredes said, smiling. “I think maybe I just work out more.”
In the first inning, Paredes pulled an up-and-in cutter from Cortes a projected 360 feet out to left field. In the third, he fouled off three pitches before hammering another cutter -- this one located down in the zone, but over the middle of the plate -- 402 feet out to left-center, with an exit velocity of 100.7 mph.
“It was his day,” Cortes said.
The Yankees pulled Cortes with one out in the fifth, just before Paredes came to the plate. The switch to the right-handed Schmidt made little difference. Paredes jumped on the first pitch he saw, a fastball down the middle, and blasted it out to left-center.
“That's very impressive, because it's hard to hit one,” said Harold Ramírez, who went back-to-back with Paredes in the first inning. “Imagine that he hit three in a row. I hope he just keeps doing it tomorrow.”
Paredes’ third homer of the night put him in exclusive company. Only five other Rays players had gone deep three times in the same game: Jonny Gomes (July 30, 2005), B.J. Upton (Sept. 9, 2012), Evan Longoria twice (Sept. 18, 2008, and Oct. 3, 2012), Travis d’Arnaud (July 15, 2019) and Brandon Lowe (last Oct. 2). Paredes was the first one to get there before the sixth inning, and his seven career home runs entering the night were the fewest in club history prior to a three-homer game, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Interestingly, the Rays’ past three three-homer games have come against the Yankees. Paredes said having that performance against a division rival, in a game in which Tampa Bay’s bullpen needed every last run to win, made it that much more special.
“It's always a tough series against the Yankees, so it's very important to win against them,” he said.
Paredes said he hadn’t hit three homers in the same game since he was a kid. He didn’t get back any of the balls he blasted into the seats, but he had his bat and batting gloves authenticated. He’ll want to keep what he can to remember a night like this.
Paredes came to the plate again in the seventh inning with a chance to join an even more exclusive club of players with four homers in the same game. He worked a 2-2 count against reliever Ron Marinaccio, only to be plunked by a changeup. The hit-by-pitch came much to Paredes’ disappointment -- and that of the entire Rays dugout.
“The adrenaline was definitely saying that I should hit another home run,” Paredes said.
“I was hoping they'd just give him a pitch to hit,” said shortstop Taylor Walls, who started a game-saving double play in the eighth, “because I know he was letting it rip.”