ST. PETERSBURG — No player in the Rays lineup can quicken the pulse as fast as Randy Arozarena, who bashed two more home runs Wednesday afternoon against the Orioles.
They were thundering, majestic flies, his second and third in two days. Seven of his 13 homers this season have come against lowly Baltimore.
Though a small sample size, they conjure memories of his October postseason barrage and make the mind wonder about what’s possible over the final two months of the season.
But it was Arozarena’s perfectly placed single in the ninth inning against the Orioles that continued a rally for the Rays.
“I was thinking home run so we could just finish the game,” he said through interpreter Manny Navarro.
Instead of another big fly from Arozarena, Austin Meadows delivered a two-out, two-strike, two-run single with the bases loaded in a 5-4 win. It was the first walkoff hit of Meadows’ big-league career and the 29th come-from-behind win for the Rays this season.
“It was pretty cool,” said Meadows, who leads the Rays with 65 RBIs. “I know I wanted to enjoy the moment there, because I know it goes pretty fast. I started to kind of do the Brett Phillips flying thing, but I don’t know if it worked out too well.
“I didn’t want to run too far. It’s been a long day, so I just kind of jogged a little bit and got pounded by my teammates. It’s a good feeling, it really is, to be able to deliver there. More times than not I have not delivered in that situation, so being able to do that and win the game was awesome.”
The Rays loaded the bases in the ninth off Orioles reliever Tanner Scott. Francisco Mejia led off with a single. After pinch-hitter Yandy Diaz struck out, pinch-hitter Mike Zunino walked and Arozarena flared a single to shallow right that went off first baseman Ryan Mountcastle’s glove when he collided with second baseman Pat Valaika in pursuit.
Rookie Vidal Brujan struck out before Meadows delivered after fouling off several 0-2 pitches.
In winning the series, the Rays improved to 57-39, one game behind the American League East-leading Red Sox. The Rays begin a four-game series tonight at Cleveland, while the Red Sox host the Yankees for four games.
Almost every at-bat by Arozarena this season has been compared to his historic October performance. The weight of that measurement might be starting to lift.
“It is really difficult to compare to October last year,” Arozarena said. “I like to think that’s from the past, and this is a whole other year. I like to say I’m Randy from this July. That’s who I like to be. I’m here to be focused, just as focused as I was last year but in a whole different season, and I’m trying to keep that, to maintain it for the rest of the year.”
Rays starter Michael Wacha survived five innings. He allowed three runs on back-to-back doubles to start the game and later was touched for home runs by Valaika and Mountcastle. The Rays got more solid relief from Matt Wisler and Colin McHugh, who combined to allow one run over the final four innings.
Batting leadoff, Arozarena hit the second pitch he saw for a towering home run to leftfield. In the second, the Rays took a 2-1 lead when Joey Wendle tripled home Mejia, who had singled to lead off the inning.
But Wacha had trouble holding the baseball within the confines of the Trop.
Mountcastle’s homer to start the fourth gave the Orioles a 3-2 lead. Arozarena tied it by leading off the fifth with a long blast to center.
“When he’s hot, he’s one of the best players on the planet,” Meadows said. “Being able to see that firsthand is awesome, especially last year’s postseason, we know when he’s like that, it’s pretty ridiculous. Being able to hit those two home runs (Wednesday) was huge for us, and we know when he gets in a groove, it’s pretty unbelievable to watch.”
Baltimore made it 4-3 when Trey Mancini doubled off Wisler in the sixth and scored on Mountcastle’s single. Then came the ninth-inning rally and Meadows delivering in the clutch.
“We’re just never out of it, man,” he said.
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