Rays win game; make trade for Cruz

by Gary Shelton on July 23, 2021

in general

Meadows keeps coming through for Rays./TIM WIRT

Friday, 4 a.m.

For the Rays, the win was typical. Another comeback, another clutch moment from Austin Meadows, another terrific performance from the bullpen.

The trade, however, was against most of the Rays history. Usually, it is the Rays trading away a veteran for prospects, not making a get-over-the-bump deal to fortify the roster for a pennant chase.

All in all, it was a rewarding day for the Rays, who rallied to beat the Cleveland Indians 5-4 in 10 innings. Earlier in the day, the Rays had acquired seven-time all-star Nelson Cruz for two prospects (Joe Ryan and Drew Strotman).

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Cruz, who had been playing for Minnesota, is 41 years old, but this year he is hitting .294 with 19 homers. The Rays will insert him into the designated hitter's role and probably move Austin Meadows to left and Randy Arozarena to right field.

For much of the night, it seemed the Rays could have used Cruz immediately. They managed just four hits off Cleveland starter Cal Quantrill. But the Rays have come from behind 30 times this year -- most in the majors.

Cleveland had built a 4-1 lead on a three-run homer by Franmil Reyes. But the Rays' bullpen shut down the Indians afterward, throwing 4 2/3 innings of scoreless baseball.

Trailing 4-2 going into the ninth, the Rays got a solo homer from Yandy Diaz -- who had four hits -- to cut the deficit to one run. One out from defeat, Brandon Lowe doubled off the wall and scored pinch-runner Brett Phillips from first.

In the 10th, Meadows drove in his 66th run of the year after falling behind 0-2. It was his second straight game-winning hit with an 0-2 count.

"You're not going to get more clutch than getting game-winning RBI back to back," said Rays' manager Kevin Cash. "Meadows got just enough to push it into the outfield. Big, big knock."

Said Lowe: "“The clutch factor is really shining through for Meadows right now. It's nothing short of impressive. He gets into those big situations and it seems like he thrives on them."

Meadows now has 66 RBI, and 31 of them have tied the game or put the Rays ahead.

Rookie Luis Patino started for the Rays and pitched well aside from the homer by Reyes, who went deep after the Rays intentionally walked Jose Ramirez.

The bullpen, which has been the best in the American League, stopped the Indians afterward without a hit or a run. Diego Castillo struck out two in the 10th for his 14th save.

"He’s been a rock all season long, in whatever role we ask him to pitch in," Cash said. "You know you’re getting strikes. I don’t think any moment is too big for him. His experiences over the last couple of seasons, just the way his mentality is, the way he carries himself, he’s pretty equipped to go and make big pitch after big pitch."

The Rays play Cleveland again tonight at 7:10 p.m. Josh Fleming will start for the Rays against Zach Plesac.

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