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Meadows (4-for-4), Rays strike fast vs. Tribe

Manager Cash after series win: Meadows 'is an impact player'
May 26, 2019

CLEVELAND -- On a day that began with the threat of moisture and dark clouds overhead, it was Austin Meadows who would bring the rain. Meadows led off Sunday’s damp series finale by clubbing a 94-mph Trevor Bauer heater to the second level of trees in center field, setting the

CLEVELAND -- On a day that began with the threat of moisture and dark clouds overhead, it was Austin Meadows who would bring the rain.

Meadows led off Sunday’s damp series finale by clubbing a 94-mph Trevor Bauer heater to the second level of trees in center field, setting the tone for the Rays to beat the Indians, 6-3 at Progressive Field and win three of four in the series.

Box score

“Anytime you can do things to help the team win, that’s what matters,” Meadows said. “Being able to set the tone with a home run in the first inning was big. That’s kind of what we’ve been doing all year, is getting runs on the board early. Being able to do that early was good.”

The leadoff bomb was the third of the season for Meadows and his 10th home run overall, helping Tampa Bay move to 12 games above .500 for the first time this season. The left-handed hitter also contributed a run-scoring single in the seventh and an RBI double in the eighth.

“He is an impact player,” manager Kevin Cash said. “I don’t think it, [I know it]. He’s done so many good things for us.”

Meadows' four-hit effort raised his season OPS to 1.079. It also continued a running theme for Tampa Bay leadoff hitters, a group that entered with baseball’s best average, on-base percentage, OPS and wRC+ among those tasked with hitting first this season.

“Unbelievable,” reliever José Alvarado said about Meadows’ 4-for-4 afternoon. “Austin Meadows is on fire, man.”

Equally important, Meadows is pleased that his three-week stint on the injured list due to a sprained thumb hasn't derailed his productivity. Since returning on May 10, the 24-year-old is hitting .326 with four doubles and four homers in 14 games.

“I’ve worked hard,” Meadows said. “When I was down for three weeks with the thumb, I tried everything I could to keep that rhythm in the box. I tried to find every way I could to continue to produce on the field and help the team.”

Purpose pitch?

The only slight blemish to Meadows’ superb afternoon came when he was drilled in the right knee by a 96-mph Bauer fastball to lead off the fifth.

The hit-by-pitch came after Meadows scored on a sacrifice fly by Ji-Man Choi in the top of the third. Center fielder Leonys Martin’s throw to Kevin Plawecki arrived just before the runner. Meadows' right leg popped in the air, and his spikes caught Plawecki on the way past, preventing the Tribe catcher from cleanly catching the toss.

Did Meadows believe the hit-by-pitch was a result of that slide?

“I think so, yeah,” Meadows said. “I think the slide. For me, obviously, I’m not trying to label myself as a dirty player. I just slid into home plate, and my spike happened to be up. I know I got him pretty good on the forearm. It is what it is. They retaliated and we move on.”

In fairness, the fifth inning also presented the dampest conditions of the afternoon. Bauer lost grip of at least one breaking ball later that inning and eventually asked the grounds crew to work on the mound in the middle of the frame.

“Once we got it taken care of that one inning, it was fine,” Bauer said. “It’s just tough. The bottom of your shoes get wet and the dirt sticks to them, and so even if the mound’s not terrible, or whatever, you still have mud caked on your shoes. That one inning, it was tough.”

The road to Alvarado
All things considered, Cash would have preferred a quiet ninth inning. However, when Adam Kolarek allowed a pair of runs, Cash called for Alvarado.

Alvarado had surrendered two runs in Friday’s 3-1 loss to Cleveland, his second rough outing over his past three appearances. But with runners on the corners and the tying run at the plate, the situation presented an opportunity to get the hard-throwing lefty back on track.

The 24-year-old responded by inducing a strikeout and groundout to end the game.

“Simply because we talk about short memories and everything, it’s still good to have the guy come back out and shake hands after a win,” Cash said. “There’s no denying that. It’s a tough role. A lot of times, it’s a thankless role. It was good to get him back out there.”