Rays Hold Off Late Tribe Rally to Take Series; Rays 6, Indians 3

The Tampa Bay Rays scored four times early off of Trevor Bauer and added two big insurance runs late to take their series with the Cleveland Indians in a 6-3 final on Sunday afternoon.

The Rays deployed their “opener” technique and used it to perfection, holding the Indians scoreless until the final two innings to cruise to an easy win. The Cleveland bats made a last ditch rally attempt when down to their final six outs, but seven wasted innings came back to haunt the club once again.

Tampa got a big day at the top of the lineup from designated hitter Austin Meadows, who kick-started a 4-for-4 day at the plate with a leadoff homer off of Bauer in the first to give the Rays an early 1-0 lead. Bauer struck out the next two before getting Avisail Garcia to pop to first.

Beeks – Jason Miller/Getty Images

The Indians put two on against opener Ryne Stanek in the first, but came away empty-handed. Oscar Mercado singled to right with one down and moved to second one out later on a bunt single by Jason Kipnis. Stanek made quick work of Jose Ramirez, throwing three straight sliders lower and lower in the zone to strike out the Tribe’s All-Star third baseman.

The Rays missed out with a runner in scoring position in the second, wasting a one-out double by Willy Adames, but the team did not miss in the third. Daniel Robertson was hit on the left elbow by the first pitch of the inning and moved to second on a single to left by Meadows. Tommy Pham made it a 2-0 game with a single to left, scoring an alert Robertson, who took the inside path to the plate on a throw that pulled the catcher Kevin Plawecki outside of the baseline. Three pitches later, Ji-Man Choi lofted a fly ball to center. Leonys Martin made the catch and fired home, but the throw skipped past Plawecki, who absorbed a bad feet first slide by Meadows at the plate. The Indians prevented further damage when the next batter, Garcia, grounded to Lindor, who threw to the plate to get Pham into a run down. Brandon Lowe flied to left to end the threat.

Jalen Beeks, acquired by the Rays in the Nathan Eovaldi trade last July, took over for Stanek in the second and worked around some trouble in the third as the Indians again stranded a pair of base runners. Francisco Lindor walked with one out and moved to third one out later on a single to right by Carlos Santana, but Kipnis, hitting out of the cleanup spot on Sunday, flied to center to leave two more on base.

The Rays struck for a quick run in the fourth on an error. With one out, Kevin Kiermaier doubled to right, stole third, and crossed home plate as Plawecki’s attempt to gun him down trying to steal was wild, giving the Rays a 4-0 lead.

Beeks retired the side in order in the fourth and worked out of trouble again in the fifth. With two down in the frame, he walked Lindor and hit Mercado with a pitch to put two on. Santana grounded a 2-2 pitch to second to leave two more Indians on the bases.

Bauer left after six, turning the game over to right-hander Nick Wittgren. Usually reliable, he gave up back-to-back hits to start his afternoon as Robertson doubled to right and scored on a single to center by Meadows to make it 5-0 Rays.

The Indians missed another scoring opportunity in the bottom of the seventh after a leadoff single by Martin off of Beeks. Plawecki grounded out before manager Kevin Cash came to the mound to bring in right-hander Oliver Drake, just called up prior to the game from Triple-A Durham. Martin moved to third on a passed ball with Lindor at the plate and he attempted to score on a second pitch that got away from catcher Erik Kratz, but he recovered in time to get the ball to Drake at the plate, where he tagged out Martin for the second out. Lindor flied to left to end the inning.

Mercado – Jason Miller/Getty Images

Cleveland finally ended the shutout bid with one swing in the bottom of the eighth. Mercado, who had already reached base safely twice with a single and a hit by pitch, drove a 1-2 pitch over the wall in left for his first Major League home run, making it a 5-1 game. Drake retired the next three in order with a pair of strikeouts.

The Rays got another insurance run in the top of the ninth against left-hander Tyler Olson. Kiermaier singled to center and moved to second with a stolen base on a strikeout by Kratz. Robertson moved the runner to third with a grounder to short. Meadows, looking for a perfect day at the plate, sent a ball down the right field line that was scooped up by the ball boy and given to a fan for a ground rule double, driving in his third run of the game on the play.

Down to their last three outs, the Tribe brought the tying run to the plate with a rally. With reliever Adam Kolarek on the mound, Mike Freeman drew a leadoff walk. Jordan Luplow reached on an infield single and Martin reached with a bunt to load the bases. Plawecki grounded home a run with a hit to first and Lindor scored Luplow with a single to left-center to make it a 6-3 game. Cash went back to his bullpen again, calling on the hard-throwing Jose Alvarado with runners on the corners. Mercado struck out on high heat for the second out and Santana grounded a 1-1 pitch to second for a game-ending force.

The Rays moved to 31-19 on the season and 18-8 on the road. The Indians dropped back to the .500 mark at 26-26, doing so for the first time since the first week of April.

Bauer went six innings for the Tribe. He allowed four runs on five hits with a walk and eight strikeouts to drop to 4-4 on the season. Beeks moved to 4-0 on the season for the Rays with four and two-thirds innings of scoreless two-hit relief, walking three and striking out three on the afternoon. Alvarado got his sixth save of the season after coming into a mess in the bottom of the ninth.

Meadows paced the Rays offense with a big day at the top of the lineup. He went 4-for-4 and reached all five times after being hit by a pitch in the fifth inning in what some felt was retaliation for his cleats-up slide into Plawecki in the third. He scored twice and knocked in three, moving his season batting average to .341. Kiermaier had a pair of hits in four trips and scored twice. Pham extended his hitting streak to an MLB-high 12 straight games with his single.

Mercado and Martin had a pair of hits for the Indians in the loss. Mercado is hitting .296 since joining the Cleveland roster and has four RBI. Lindor reached safely three times with a single and a pair of walks.

The Rays will head home to host the Toronto Blue Jays this week. The Indians will kick off a seven-game road trip with three games in Boston with the Red Sox before heading to Chicago for four straight with the White Sox starting Thursday. Jefry Rodriguez (1-4, 4.08 ERA) will get the start in the series opener from Fenway Park against right-hander Rick Porcello (3-4, 4.45) in a 4:05 PM ET start on Monday afternoon.

Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images

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