ANAHEIM -- Over the first five months of the season, the Rays were carried by stellar pitching and solid defense. But over the last two weeks, it’s been the offense that has ignited the Rays.
Since Aug. 28, the Rays are averaging 5.80 runs per game, which is sixth in the Majors during that span. The recent offensive onslaught continued on Friday as the Rays hit four home runs and recorded 15 hits en route to a much-needed 11-4 win over the Angels at Angel Stadium. The Rays remain a half-game back behind the A's for the top American League Wild Card spot, but increased their lead to one game over the Indians, who were rained out Friday against the Twins.
“This team has shown enough this year that we can be frustrated and irritated and all those things,” said Rays manager Kevin Cash, when asked if he had any concerns about his team bouncing back after two consecutive losses in Texas. “But when it’s time to play the next day, they’ve done a good job of being resilient and finding a way to energize themselves and win a game.”
After falling behind, 1-0, in the second inning, the Rays' offense answered right back in a loud way in the third. Willy Adames opened the frame with a 450-foot solo home run to even the score. Austin Meadows, who extended his hitting streak to 12 games, followed with a two-run homer to give the Rays the lead, and Jesus Aguilar wrapped up the inning with a solo shot to straightaway center field to put the Rays ahead, 4-1.
With the third-inning home run, Meadows became the 10th player in franchise history to hit 30 dingers and is the second-youngest to reach the mark behind Evan Longoria, who hit 33 in 2009. During his hitting streak, Meadows is hitting .444 with six home runs.
“Pretty cool accomplishment,” Meadows said. “If you would have told me that at the beginning of Spring Training, I don’t know if I would’ve believed you. So being able to accomplish that, especially at this time of year, it’s pretty special.”
Tampa Bay was able to tack on two runs in the fourth inning, one in the sixth on a Guillermo Heredia home run, one in the seventh and two in the eighth on a two-out Avisail Garcia double that put the Rays ahead, 10-3. All nine starters for the Rays recorded at least one hit and the team improved to 64-9 when scoring five or more runs this season.
“[Andrew] Heaney is tough,” Cash said of the Angels' starting pitcher. “Serious concerns about facing him today, just because he’s been on a good run and he’s a good pitcher. We got some pitches that we can handle. Even in the first inning that we didn’t score, but for us to hit two of the three [hits] right on the nose, we didn’t get anything, but it was encouraging to see that and it picked up where we left off inning to inning.”
As the offense continued to add runs, Charlie Morton, who made his 31st start of the season -- a new career high -- was able to settle in on the mound to keep the Angels in check.
Morton struggled over the first three innings, but the right-hander kept the Halos off the scoreboard in his last three frames. The right-hander allowed three runs and struck out four over six innings. The Angels hit Morton hard, recording seven hard-hit balls.
Overall, after two tough losses in Texas, the Rays were able to get back in the win column. With four games left in the road trip and 13 games remaining in the regular season, the Rays know they have to pile up the wins in order to clinch one of the two Wild Card spots. And a lot of that will depend on what the offense does over the next two weeks.
“Guys got in a little late last night, and for them to come out and swinging. When I gave up those runs, they came out and scored some more. That’s a big deal,” Morton said. “I think at this point of the season with this team, the end result of a loss isn’t really going to affect guys in here that much. I think we’re in a really good spot. Win or lose, I think the way we’ve been playing here, especially the last couple of weeks, we’re playing some good baseball.”