NEW YORK -- After a hard-fought four-game series against the Yankees in the Bronx, the Rays found themselves across the river to open a three-game series against the Mets in Flushing.
Following an off-day on Monday, Tampa Bay looked energized. The club had its way with right-hander Justin Verlander in an 8-5 victory on Tuesday night at Citi Field, marking the 21st time this season that the Rays scored eight or more runs in a game.
“The offense continues to do really good things,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “They are putting pressure on pitchers, getting starters out of games early. The awareness they are going up to the plate with, whether it’s a starter or reliever, it’s given us a better advantage of accomplishing good things. The eight-run mark is a pretty good one.”
To say the Rays made Verlander work hard is an understatement. Verlander threw 96 pitches in five innings, never had a clean inning and allowed six runs on eight hits and two walks. Five of those runs were driven in by Isaac Paredes thanks to his multihomer night.
In the third inning, Paredes gave Tampa Bay a 3-0 lead by hitting a three-run homer over the left-field wall. An inning later, Harold Ramírez added to the scoring by driving in Christian Bethancourt with a single to right. In the fifth, Paredes clocked a Verlander fastball that landed near the left-field foul pole to make it a 6-0 game.
“It was a great day, especially with Verlander being such a great pitcher,” Paredes said through interpreter Manny Navarro. “My mentality was to be able to go up there and do well against those guys.”
Verlander didn’t sugarcoat anything about his outing.
“Today was a tough one, no doubt about it,” Verlander said. “The challenge is, they're not swinging and missing much, and when you make a mistake, they were able to capitalize on it. Paredes particularly lifted a couple to left field that unfortunately snuck out. Just challenging. Not a great day."
Paredes has been one of the hottest hitters on the Rays. In his last 19 games, he is 23-for-61 (.377) with three runs scored and 18 RBIs. While Paredes is not as well known as Randy Arozarena or Wander Franco, Cash believes Paredes will be one of the team leaders in several offensive categories by the season’s end.
“Look, he is a really good hitter. We saw that last year. Isaac has put together a solid season to date,” Cash said. “There may be some guys around him that have bigger numbers, but I’m very confident by the end of the year, his numbers will get there with nights like these for sure.”
By hitting three home runs, including one by Jose Siri, in Tuesday’s game, Tampa Bay has hit a Major League-leading 84 home runs. Even more impressive, the team has homered in 38 of its 43 games and hit multiple homers in 24 games.
“Good hitters,” Cash said about his offense. “We complement other team’s good hitters. We are fortunate that we have good hitters that can hit the ball out of the ballpark.”
According to Paredes, the success in the batter’s box started during Spring Training.
“Ever since Spring Training, with the routines and the work [we are doing], we are finally getting the results that we want,” Paredes said. “And I think as long as we stay with that work and routine, we are going to be OK.”
The Rays went with a bullpen game in the opener, and the relievers they called upon did enough to win the game. Left-hander Jalen Beeks started the game with two scoreless innings. Right-hander Yonny Chirinos pitched the bulk of the game and picked up the victory, allowing three runs in 4 2/3 innings. Right-handers Ryan Thompson and Zack Littell and left-hander Jake Diekman pitched the rest of the game.
But the story was about Tampa Bay’s offense, which has been tough to deal with for opponents.
“It’s pretty cool to watch,” Beeks said. “You feel like every game we are going to hit three or four home runs. That’s just the expectation because these guys are so good. They are on a roll.”