ATLANTA — The Rays were up early Friday. Then they were down. Then tied. Down again. Tied. Finally, back on top.
And at the end, shaking hands after a stirring win to start the post-All-Star break portion of their schedule, rallying to beat the Braves 7-6, and in 10 innings at that.
“There was a little bit of everything in that game and glad that we found a way to come out on top,’' manager Kevin Cash said. “That win felt really good. Really, really good.’'
There were good reasons, with a litany of key moments.
Two of the biggest were delivered by Austin Meadows, the Atlanta-area native playing at home for the first time as a big-leaguer, and with 100-plus relatives and friends cheering him on, including his elderly paternal grandfather.
“That was cool,’' Meadows said. “Being able to see them in the stands, it just was a little bit of an adrenaline pump. You just want to do good. You want to do good in front of them, especially this being my first time playing here as well.’'
In the eighth, Meadows singled with two outs to score the first of two runs the Rays needed to tie it. All-Star Joey Wendle then got the other home by doing what Joey Wendle does, hustling all out to beat out a bouncer to short.
And in the 10th, Meadows came through with another two-out single to knock in the winner, scoring Brett Phillips, who started the inning as the runner on second base.
And before that he got the Rays a run with a sac fly after rookie Wander Franco snapped an 0-for-13 slump by hustling his way to a triple. By the end of the night, Meadows pushed his team-leading RBI total to 61, to go with his .244 average, 16 home runs, 23 doubles and .812 OPS.
“He’s been clutch. When there’s runners on, we count and rely on him to drive them in. So far, he’s been very good at it,’' Wendle said.
“I told Austin it was one of my favorite games of his all year. We all know he can hit a home run, he can hit extra-base hits. But to come up with two big line-drive singles in the spots that he did, I mean, that was a great way for him to start out the second half.’'
For all the Rays really.
There were some big defensive plays, including a dazzler by shortstop Taylor Walls in the first, and some big pitches, with reliever Matt Wisler working a scoreless eighth and ninth, and Pete Fairbanks a 1-2-3 10th.
But the key was the way the offense came back, having taken an early 2-0 lead off ex-mate Charlie Morton, then wasting repeated opportunities to add on. For a team that went 4-for-15 with runners in scoring position, that left 14 men on and struck out 12 times, the Rays ended up feeling pretty good about themselves.
“Offensively our guys just stayed at it and continued putting pressure with just big at-bat after big at-bat,’' Cash said.
The win improved the Rays to 54-37 and kept them 1½ games behind the American League East-leading Red Sox. And there was something to be said for how Tampa Bay did it, as extra innings had been vexing.
The Rays had lost six straight and nine of their first 12 overtime games, trailing only the Dodgers’ majors-worst 1-8. And Fairbanks had been on the wrong end of a couple of walkoff losses.
“If that was a hurdle we needed to jump across, I’m glad we did it,’' Cash said, “because he’s so important to our bullpen. We need him pitching in some of the biggest moments of these games, and he certainly came through, made his pitches.’'
The Rays have won enough that they typically don’t make too much out of any one game. But with all it took to get this win, Cash wasn’t the only one excited by how they rallied Friday, before a Truist Park sellout crowd of 40,485.
“To battle back like we did, yeah, it felt like a big win,’' Wendle said. “Gosh, just contributions all throughout the lineup. Got big pitches when we needed it. Got sound defense when we needed it. I would echo that. I think it was a big win as well.”
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