'Squirrels and cats' carom gives Raley standup inside-the-park HR

August 17th, 2023

SAN FRANCISCO -- In 29 Major League ballparks, 's drive to deep right-center that traveled a Statcast-projected 425 feet in the sixth inning of Wednesday's 6-1 Rays win over the Giants would have cleared the fences with ease. Not at Oracle Park.

But with a winning combination of power, hustle and a quirky sequence of bounces that only could have happened at the Giants' home ballpark, Raley crossed the plate for the first pinch-hit inside-the-park home run in Rays history, no slide necessary.

"I didn't draw it up that way," Raley said. "I would rather just hit it over the wall and then be able to jog, but you know, they all count the same."

Since 1998, the Rays' inaugural season, Tampa Bay's 23 inside-the-parkers are the most in the Majors. Arizona and Kansas City are tied for second, with 21 apiece.

Raley's inside-the-parker was one of three Rays homers off Giants right-hander Ross Stripling as they took two of three in San Francisco, improving to 5-1 over their past six series. The trio of home runs backed Aaron Civale, who tossed six scoreless innings en route to his first win with Tampa Bay.

Josh Lowe got the home run party started with a no-doubt solo shot that soared a projected 430 feet to right-center field to lead off the fourth inning. Brandon Lowe chipped in a two-run blast in the fifth for his 100th career home run, becoming the fastest primary second baseman to reach the century mark in AL/NL history.

"One hundred home runs at the big league level is pretty special," manager Kevin Cash said. "He's very capable of adding more to that, and today it was a big one to kind of open up the game a little bit."

Not surprisingly, Raley's fateful trip around the bases was the talk of the clubhouse after the game.

Pinch-hitting for Jose Siri, who left the game with a left pinky finger sprain, Raley stepped in against Stripling with one out in the sixth and jumped on a first-pitch slider.

Raley drilled the ball to the deepest part of Oracle Park, where it caromed off the angled wall in right-center and shot into center field, skipping along the top of the fence just in front of the visitors' bullpen.

"It looked like a rat running across the top of the fence there," Cash said.

Brandon Lowe kept the animal theme going, noting that it resembled "squirrels and cats" scurrying over a wall. But he wanted to approach it from a quantitative standpoint as well.

"I would love to know the Statcast on how long that ball stayed on the wall," Brandon Lowe said, "because it felt like it was up there forever. Not knowing if it was going to actually go over or come back over, but it all ended [up] well."

Giants outfielders Michael Conforto and Wade Meckler, who had been tracking the ball into Triples Alley, had no chance at grabbing it in time to make a play on the basepaths.

"​​It was one of those where he hit it and I thought it was a homer," Stripling said. "And then you’re like, 'Oh, man, that might be a double.' And then it just goes 100 yards that way, and right away, I knew. I mean, he was on second base before Wade was even like turned around running after it. I didn’t even go back up home. It was a home run."

All the while, Raley was putting his elite sprint speed to good use, rounding the bases in 15.29 seconds -- the Rays' fastest home-to-home time this season and their fifth-fastest since Statcast began tracking in 2015. 

"When I hit it into that part of the park, that's why I got out of the box hard," Raley said. "I guess I was just seeing how … they would play the bounce, and I got a good bounce, and it got past the center fielder. And once I saw it get past the center fielder, I knew I had a chance because it came off that brick wall so hard."

It was the 11th regular-season inside-the-park homer in Oracle Park's 23-year history, not counting Ichiro Suzuki's electric trip around the bases at the 2007 All-Star Game.

As far as Raley remembers, it's been years since he last hit an inside-the-parker.

"Since Little League, zero," Raley said. "I mean, I did it quite a bit in Little League. But yeah, in pro ball, zero for sure."

There's nothing like a big league first.