ST. PETERSBURG — Austin Meadows delivered the first walkoff hit of his career as the Rays defeated the Orioles 5-4 on Wednesday afternoon at Tropicana Field.
With the bases loaded and two outs, Meadows fouled off the first four pitches from lefty Tanner Scott. He then ripped a single to center that scored Franciso Mejia and Kevin Kiermaier.
“Tanner Scott has a good fastball, so for me it was to continue to stay on his fastball and put together as good an at-bat as I could,” said Meadows, who has driven in 65 runs. “For me, just trying to get the foot down early and stay on the fastball.”
Meadows was mobbed by his teammates in shallow right field after delivering the game-winning hit, something he enjoyed.
“It was my first walkoff hit (in the majors),” he said. “It was pretty cool and I wanted to enjoy the moment. I started to do a Brett Phillips (World Series) flying thing, but I didn’t want to run too far after a long day. I just kind of jogged a little bit and got hounded by my teammates. It was a good feeling to be able to deliver there.”
The win brought the Rays to within one-half game of the Red Sox, pending the outcome of Boston’s game in Buffalo against the Blue Jays on Wednesday night.
Trailing 4-3, the Rays loaded the bases when Mejia led off the ninth against Scott and fought back from a two-strike count to line a single to left. After Yandy Diaz pinch-hit for Joey Wendle and struck out, Mike Zunino, batting for Brett Phillips, walked to put runners on first and second. Kiermaier pinch ran for Zunino.
Randy Arozarena hit a dunker into right for a single, his third hit, to load the bases. After Vidal Brujan struck out, Meadows delivered to send the Rays to Cleveland on a high note.
“A guy that is confident in his approach,” manager Kevin Cash said of Meadows. “He can put the ball in play when he needs to. He came up with a huge hit and gave us a big win.”
Arozarena hit a pair of homers for his fourth career multi-homer game, the last coming May 19 at Baltimore. He led off the first with his first-career leadoff homer and he also homered leading off the fifth. The latter tied the score at 3-3 before Baltimore took the lead in the sixth on a run-scoring single by Ryan Mountcastle.
Collin McHugh (3-1) picked up the win with two scoreless innings in relief. McHugh has not allowed an earned run in his last 13 appearances, spanning 27 innings.
The Rays, who improved to 8-1 against the Orioles, travel to Cleveland for a four-game series against the Indians starting Thursday night. They return home next Tuesday when they start a nine-game homestand with three games each against the Yankees, Red Sox and Mariners.
Tom Layberger is also a contributing writer for forbes.com and Tampa Bay Business & Wealth Magazine