HRs and lights-out 'pen lead Rays over Sox

June 15th, 2021

CHICAGO -- Facing the team with the American League’s second-best record didn’t slow down the Rays on Monday night. Neither did losing their ace to an ominous injury after four innings.

The Rays blasted three homers and bullpenned their way through the final five innings of a 5-2 victory at Guaranteed Rate Field, persevering through Tyler Glasnow’s early exit due to right elbow inflammation.

This series figures to be something of a measuring stick for the Rays, a chance to show what they’re made of against a hot White Sox team that entered the week trailing them by only half a game in the standings. Monday’s series opener tested their mettle in more ways than one, but their winning streak continued.

“We've had adversity in the past with pitchers getting injured and just things that obviously, you don't want to happen,” Austin Meadows said. “We just continue to push and fight, regardless of if a teammate goes down. Obviously, it sucks in the moment, but I think for us, we continue to push through it and try to find ways to win.”  

The Rays have won four straight games, and they’re now 7-1 in their last eight. They’ve won 24 of 29 games since May 13 to reach a season-high 19 games over .500. They’ve claimed sole possession of the Majors’ best record for nine straight days and 14 of the last 16.

They might have greater concerns in the coming days after seeing Glasnow shake his throwing elbow and flex his forearm while walking off the mound, but they still had reason to celebrate at the end of the night.

“It’s tough. Tyler's been great for us all year, and hopefully, it's nothing serious and hopefully, he's back soon,” Meadows said. “We know when we have a lead, we have a really good chance of winning, because obviously, our bullpen is lights-out, so that's always a good thing. Just good timing tonight on the hitting side, and it was a good win.” 

Meadows began the long-ball barrage with a two-run homer in the first inning off Lance Lynn, giving him 15 home runs and 50 RBIs on the year. Meadows is now tied with Rafael Devers for the second most RBIs in the Majors this season, trailing only Vladimir Guerrero Jr.  

And Brandon Lowe continued to show signs of a turnaround two innings later, launching a solo shot to right field off Lynn. Lowe has hit safely in each of his last four games, and homered in two of them, to snap out of an 0-for-16 skid.

The veteran right-hander Lynn shut down the Rays afterward and worked his way through six innings, but it marked just the second time this season he’s allowed three runs in a start. 

“Lance Lynn is pitching as good as anybody in the game. Austin sets the tone with the two-run home run in the first. [Then] Brandon gets one,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “We had a lot of good at-bats, drove his pitch count up. It just shows how talented [Lynn] is. We had great at-bats, and he was still able to get through six innings, but very encouraged with the way we went about it.”

The White Sox made it a one-run game in the third, and Glasnow’s injury left the bullpen to do some unexpected heavy lifting. The way the Rays’ relief corps is rolling, though, the number of innings or the quality of the opponent hardly mattered. Ryan Thompson, J.P. Feyereisen, Diego Castillo and Pete Fairbanks combined to work five scoreless innings, allowing only two hits and a walk while striking out five. 

Tampa Bay’s bullpen has put together a 3.00 ERA overall this season, with a 1.48 mark over the last 18 games. Give that group a lead, even if it’s one run in the fifth inning, and odds are it’ll be safe.

“The bullpen has just been as hot as any bullpen in baseball -- the way they contribute, the efficiency, just the stuff that they're featuring,” Cash said. “Against what we acknowledge is a really good lineup, a very good team, to be able to hold it right there, that's -- other than unfortunately Glasnow -- that's the story of the game.” 

Thompson handled the fifth, and Feyereisen built the bridge to the late innings with two perfect frames. After Randy Arozarena provided valuable insurance with his second homer in as many days off lefty Garrett Crochet, Castillo and Fairbanks took care of the final two innings. 

“They are a really good team. We knew that coming in, and they were able to get some runs early and then they were able to add on late,” Lynn said. “That’s what we aspire to be. We got some runs early, but we weren’t able to add on. It’s part of the game."