TORONTO -- Austin Meadows is on fire, and it would be hard to think that there are many players in the Majors seeing the ball better than the 23-year-old right now.
After leading off Friday night’s 11-7 victory over the Blue Jays with his fifth home run of the season, the Georgia native opened the third inning with a monster shot to the upper deck at Rogers Centre in his first career multi-homer game. Meadows also added a double in the ninth.
“We’ve got a lot of guys doing good things; Austin’s right at the top of the list,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “He’s really locked in. I think the consistent reps have helped him, but every at-bat it seems like he’s doing damage. … He’s playing very special right now.”
Tampa Bay’s designated hitter combined with second baseman Brandon Lowe to become the only pair of teammates to ever hit home runs into the fifth deck at Rogers Centre in the same game, and they both did so in the same inning. Lowe added a second two-run homer in the seventh frame to keep up and notch the first multi-homer game of his own career. And Willy Adames pitched in with a homer in the ninth.
Their third-inning homers were the 21st and 22nd hit into the 500 level in Rogers Centre history -- and only the fourth and fifth by left-handed hitters -- and both were measured by Statcast at a conservative 436 feet. Lowe’s long ball had the highest exit velocity -- at 114.3 mph -- on a Rays home run since Statcast began tracking in 2015. The previous record was a 113.8-mph homer hit by Steven Souza in 2017.
“They were fighting over which one went further, which was pretty entertaining,” Cash said. “I haven’t seen two balls go up there in the same game ever, and we’ve seen a lot of baseball here before. But Austin Meadows is swinging the bat really well. Brandon Lowe, same thing. The guys are locked in, it seems like, at the plate right now.”
Meadows has gone 17-for-39 over his last 10 games (eight starts) with five homers, three doubles and 14 RBIs.
He led the lineup in the team’s three-game sweep of the White Sox to start the week, going 7-for-10 with two home runs and seven RBIs over his last two games in Chicago.
“I’m relaxed up there,” Meadows said. “I feel like being in this clubhouse, we’re having a lot of fun right now. And being able to have fun and let that show up on the field, that can only help you succeed.”
Similarly, Lowe started the year with a 1-for-10 stretch, and in the 10 games (eight starts) since, the 24-year-old has gone 13-for-36 with four homers, three doubles and nine RBIs.
The win was Tampa’s fifth consecutive victory, and over that span the team has outscored opponents 38-14. The Rays have also been leading at the end of 45 consecutive innings during their winning streak -- in other words, they took the lead in the first inning and led throughout every game.
After Tampa got out to an eight-run advantage Friday, Toronto rallied to put up six runs in the seventh inning, adding another in the eighth to cut the lead to one. The Rays added three more runs in the top of the ninth to secure the win and though the game was -- at times -- a nail-biter, the excitement made the victory that much sweeter.
“It’s very satisfying,” Cash said. “Obviously things went our way really, really well, minus that one inning, but [I’m] impressed with the resolve of the club. … The best thing to me was they put all kinds of pressure on us, probably more than we would have liked, and we found a way to separate there at the end, and give ourselves a little breather.”