ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays had a few things to take out of Sunday’s 8-4, 10-inning loss that kept them from completing a series sweep of the Yankees.
One, that Brent Honeywell has indeed made it back from his three-year-plus injury odyssey, working two perfect innings in a dazzling major-league debut.
Another, that their injury-plagued bullpen is going to be an ongoing adventure, blowing an eighth-inning-or-later lead for the second time in five games and letting this one get out of hand quickly in the 10th.
And, most painfully, and perhaps most importantly, that their issues with the Yankees throwing at their hitters, a major point of contention last year, are going to continue.
When Austin Meadows was drilled on the top of his shoulder in the first inning Sunday by Jordan Montgomery, Rays players and coaches were visibly upset for a reason: They had been hit in all three games of the series.
“If it is coincidence, it’s crazy to happen three days in a row,’' said catcher Mike Zunino, plunked in Friday’s opener. “I get it’s part of the game at times. But to have it happen every game, I think that’s why you may have heard us chirp a little bit.’'
Zunino went on to say that the Rays weren’t “holding on to anything from years past,” just trying to win games and let their play “speak for itself.” Manager Kevin Cash had a similar take, claiming he didn’t expect a continuation of their seasons-long dramatics with the Yankees.
That was highlighted last year by Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman throwing a 101 mph pitch at Mike Brosseau’s head on Sept. 1, and Cash delivering his now classic rant, citing the Yankees’ “poor” coaching and judgment and boasting of his “stable” of 98 mph throwing relievers. There was no blatant extension in the tense American League Division Series, though Brosseau did get revenge with his Game 5-winning homer off Chapman.
But after watching the pitches that hit his batters — including Meadows a second time Sunday and a couple of near misses in the first meeting of 2021 — it was obvious there was a carryover.
And one Cash blamed on Major League Baseball officials for not taking stronger action last year, suspending Chapman for only three games (reduced to two) and do nothing to former Yankee Masahiro Tanaka, who the Rays felt hit Joey Wendle intentionally in that same game.
“This continues to roll over,’' Cash said. “It’s been so grossly mishandled by Major League Baseball last year. I’ve got a buddy that told me that there’s no recourse, there’s never any recourse.’'
Cash said he didn’t think Montgomery hit Meadows on purpose, but the impact on his team is the same. Umpires were concerned enough to issue warnings to both benches. But they decided when Montgomery hit Meadows again in the fifth with more of a glancing blow, it wasn’t enough to eject the Yankees starter.
“I was a little concerned on the second hit batter,’' Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “Definitely no intent, but I understand their anger. You see Meadows get hit up around the shoulder, I’d be upset on our side, whether it’s intentional or not. I think it was clear that Monty was just really struggling to find his command.’'
The teams play again this weekend in New York, and twice more by early June.
Meadows said something has to change.
“Anytime you’re pitched up and in, it’s scary as a hitter,’' he said. “Obviously we have this back and forth going on. It definitely sucks. … You guys see it. It happens almost every series with them. It’s something that we’ve got to stop because being a hitter and having that in the back of your mind is not a good feeling.’'
The Rays (4-5) didn’t retaliate Sunday, as the two batters they hit were on pitches basically in the dirt. So how do they stop it?
“Good question,’' Meadows said. “I think we do a good job as a team in not retaliating and just continue to play the game and let our plan do the talking. And I feel like that’s a good strategy to have.’'
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