CLEVELAND — The pain in Austin Meadows’ right knee was a searing reminder that not everything went his way Sunday.
A slide into home with his right foot and spikes high — inadvertent, he said — led to a response — intentional, he said — in his next at-bat when Trevor Bauer drilled him, knocking him down, but not out.
“It is what it is,’’ Meadows said. “They retaliated, and we move on.’’
But otherwise, Meadows had one heck of a Sunday in the park.
He launched a leadoff homer and added three more hits to lead the Rays to a 6-3 win and a season-best 12 games over .500 at 31-19 as they hit the Memorial Day checkpoint.
“Anytime you can do things to help the team win, that’s what matters,’’ Meadows said. “Being able to set the tone with a homer in the first inning was big.’’
The quotes from Meadows tend to run a bit on the boring side, but his contributions to the Rays have been explicit.
The homer, a 431-foot blast to center, was his 10th of the season, trailing only Brandon Lowe.
His three runs batted in gave him 27, also second on the team to Lowe.
The 4-for-4 showing pushed his average to .341 and his OPS to 1.079, which would top the American League if he had enough plate appearances to qualify for the leaderboard. The reason he doesn’t is that he missed three weeks with a sprained thumb, and the fact that he came back and stayed hot is impressive in itself.
“He’s been just huge for us,’’ manager Kevin Cash said. “Austin’s been kind of consistently really, really good. Then we’ve had other guys that have been really, really hot at times. But Austin is pretty special right now.’’
His teammates are talking about him, too.
“He’s pretty good, huh?’’ said Jalen Beeks, who worked 4⅔ scoreless innings behind opener Ryne Stanek for the win. “He’s playing great, what else can you say? He’s swinging it. He’s playing good defense. And he’s a great guy in the clubhouse. He’s just doing it all right now.’’
“Four-for-four, wow,’’ said reliever Jose Alvarado, who bounced back from his Friday mess to quell a Cleveland comeback and get Sunday’s final two outs. “Unbelievable. Austin Meadows in on fire, man.’’
Meadows tries not to pay much attention to what he has done or what people are saying about him this early in his nascent career.
“I just continue to try to work,’’ he said. “I’m going to try to stay away from the numbers. It’s hard to do when there’s a big scoreboard and it has all your numbers and stuff like that.
“Obviously it’s good to see that, but it’s a long season. For me, I’m going to try to keep that even-keeled mentality and enjoy the good games but not get down on the bad games. Just continue to try and work and win games.’’
Meadows, in case you’ve forgotten but Pirates fans certainly haven’t, was acquired from Pittsburgh in last July’s Chris Archer trade, along with Tyler Glasnow, who was having his own dazzling showing until being sidelined by injury, and promising pitching prospect Shane Baz.
That Meadows just turned 24, is cheap, and only in his second season in the majors just adds to his potential jackpot payoff.
“He is an impact player, I don’t think he is,’’ Cash said. “He’s done so many good things for us. His defense continues to get better. He can pick up stolen bases here and there. … His bat has been enormous for us.’’
Meadows showed just about everything Sunday.
The homer was his third from the leadoff spot he seems to like. He singled, went first-to-third, then scored in the third. After being hit in the fifth, he stole second and went to third on a wild pitch. He singled to right-center in the seventh to knock in the fifth Rays run. And he doubled down the rightfield line in the ninth to make it 6-1.
The run he scored in the third proved to be the painful one.
“Obviously I’m not trying to label myself as a dirty player,’’ Meadows said. “I slid into home plate and my spikes happened to be up. I know I got (Indians catcher Kevin Plawecki) pretty good on the forearm.’’
Meadows said he was surprised Bauer retaliated. “It is what it is,’’ he said. “We’re going to continue to play baseball. That’s part of the game. … I’m lucky I’m okay.’’
Meadows was nearly on the receiving end last weekend, when Yankees veteran CC Sabathia came inside on him and was seen on TV saying he was trying to hit him.
In a (painful) way, it’s another sign of how well Meadows is doing.
Contact Marc Topkin at email@example.com. Follow @TBTimes_Rays