BALTIMORE -- Kenny Meadows sat in his Georgia home on Thursday night and made a last-minute decision to take a trip up to Baltimore. He was merely looking to catch another one of his son Austin’s games and enjoy some father-son bonding. During late August baseball, those chances arise only
BALTIMORE -- Kenny Meadows sat in his Georgia home on Thursday night and made a last-minute decision to take a trip up to Baltimore. He was merely looking to catch another one of his son Austin’s games and enjoy some father-son bonding. During late August baseball, those chances arise only so frequently.
What he ended up witnessing was probably more than he could have expected: his son’s first career grand slam, and a 7-1 Rays win over the Orioles at Camden Yards.
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"For him to witness it, for me to do it while he was here, it was pretty special,” Austin Meadows said. “After I hit it, I was like, ‘That’s a grand slam.'”
Meadows’ slam capped a seven-run Rays second inning -- the night’s only scoring by the away team. It was more than enough to back up Trevor Richards’ six scoreless innings and the first big league save by Aaron Slegers, who was optioned to Triple-A Durham by night’s end.
The burst of offense, albeit condensed, could not have come at a more welcome time for Tampa Bay. It was only the Rays’ fourth win since the All-Star break of at least six runs, and since Oakland was dormant on Friday, this one propelled Tampa Bay into sole possession of the top American League Wild Card spot.
“It was nice to separate a game,” manager Kevin Cash said. “We haven’t done that for a while. … We all needed for the offense to bust out a little bit, and they did.”
Along with a two-run single from Mike Zunino that earned high praise from Cash, Meadows was chief among the charge. His 23rd homer of the year was his third in six games at Camden Yards, which tied Yankee Stadium atop his list of away ballparks.
Zooming out, that overall number sits where it does after Meadows entered the 2019 season -- when the ball is flying out like never before -- as a self-described contact guy with only six career homers to his name and unsure of his spot on the roster.
“Coming up, I always felt I was an average hitter, a contact hitter,” Meadows said. “Now just being able to hit home runs, I could definitely see myself as that going forward.”
“He’s pretty special when he’s got a bat in his hand,” Cash said. “He sees the ball so well. You never see him take an out-of-sorts swing, and that’s the sign of a good hitter.”
If Meadows’ milestone blast was all Richards received, it would have been enough. But he went ahead and more than impressed as he continued to be stretched back into a starter to fill in for the ravaged rotation.
Richards admitted some additional comfort in pitching for his new team for a second time. On the field, that was manifested in his flashing his cutter for the first time since coming over. All told, however, it was his steadfast changeup and fastball that powered an outing that featured 17 of the next 18 Orioles retired following a two-out double in the first.
Only time will tell where, exactly, Richards plants his flag once rosters expand and the Rays’ depleted rotation returns to its normal form. But until then, the club will more than happily take the kind of production it got from him on Friday.
“Right now, it’s all hands on deck,” Cash said. “We’re going to need strong performances from anybody who takes the ball. He certainly gave us one today. Hopefully he looks at this as a confidence boost for him to get in here and compete.”
His pitching performance, which included three punchouts in his final inning on 12 pitches, would have been enough.
But he went ahead and added a highlight-reel snag in the fifth on a Chris Davis comebacker.
“I figured I’d take a stab at it behind the back,” Richards recalled, “and it was in my glove.”
Added Cash: “I think [pitching coach Kyle Snyder] said we should keep the ball since he’s not going to make another [play] like that.”
Zachary Silver is a reporter/editor for MLB.com based in Baltimore/Washington. Follow him on Twitter @zachsilver.