ST. PETERSBURG — Add an inside-the-park home run to Brett Phillips’ resume in 2021.
The Seminole native, whose three grand slams are a single-season team record, circled the bases in the sixth inning of Monday night’s 9-2 win over the Orioles at Tropicana Field.
Phillips’ drive off the wall in left center caromed past Orioles center fielder Cedric Mullins and was tracked down by left fielder D.J. Stewart. Busting it from the moment he made contact, Phillips beat the relay and tag attempt by catcher Austin Wynns.
“I’m experiencing a lot of fun things this year and that was the most exhausting fun thing I have done this year, by far,” said Phillips. “As I was rounding second, I just heard the crowd kind of erupt. I think regardless if (third base coach Rodney Linares) was going to send me or not, I think I would have just (kept going) because of the crowd.”
The homer, his 10th of the season and first of the inside-the park variety in his career, gave the Rays a 6-1 lead.
Trailing 1-0, the Rays took the lead for good when Austin Meadows tripled home two runs in the fourth to make it 2-1.
The Rays scored three runs in the fifth and sixth with Brandon Lowe homering in both innings. Lowe, who hit a solo shot in the fifth and a two-run blow in the sixth, has 28 homers on the season.
“He’s a special hitter,” said Rays manager Kevin Cash. “When he gets pitches that he can hit, he has a knack for hitting them out of the ballpark.”
Josh Fleming got the win in a bulk-inning role. After allowing 10 runs at Boston last Wednesday, he rebounded by allowing two runs in 5 ⅔ innings to pick up the win. The lefthander, who improved to 10-6, threw 101 pitches.
“That was huge,” said Cash. “Good for him to bounce back after the Boston outing. He got in a little bit of a jam in his first inning of work (the third when Baltimore took a 1-0 lead), but credit him for limiting the damage.”
Collin McHugh opened for the fifth time this season and threw two innings, retiring all six batters he faced. The righthander has not allowed an earned run since coming off the IL on May 27, a stretch of 16 appearances and 32 innings.
With the win, the Rays improved to 12-1 against the Orioles this season and have outscored them 103-51. Baltimore has lost 12 straight.
The four-game series resumes Tuesday night (7:10) when Drew Rasmussen (1-1) is opposed by John Means (5-4).