ST. PETERSBURG — Isaac Paredes had reasons to be excited.
Hitting three home runs in a game for the first time at any pro level, and in his first three at-bats. Tying the Rays’ franchise record. Further validating the trade of Austin Meadows to get him, and the progress he is making with increased opportunities.
But best of all on a memorable night in the Rays’ 5-4 win?
“Coming from the heart, that it was against the Yankees,” Paredes said via team interpreter Manny Navarro. “That’s what made it very special.”
Mainly, Paredes said, because of the Yankees’ majors-best record and the competition they provide in the division. “It’s always a tough series against the Yankees, so it’s very important to win against them,” he said.
Certainly at this juncture, as the Rays had lost six of their previous seven, as well as two more key players to injury, with Kevin Kiermaier and Manuel Margot on Tuesday joining Wander Franco, Brandon Lowe and Mike Zunino, plus a handful of key pitchers, on the sideline.
Though they are still in fourth place and on the outside of the playoff race, the win gave the Rays (37-31) something to feel good about.
Plus, they got good pitching from a parade of seven relievers on a planned bullpen day, though Colin Poche allowed a two-run homer to Marwin Gonzalez with two outs in the ninth, then a fly to deep left by pitch-hitter Aaron Judge that was caught to seal the win.
The Rays played crisper on defense, with shortstop Taylor Walls making a tremendous play with two on in the eighth, going to his right and down on a knee to snare Giancarlo Stanton’s 111.4 mph grounder, then throwing to second, where Vidal Brujan made a great turn for an inning-ending double play.
“Unbelievable — ‘Wallsy’'s play, Brujan, the turn,” manager Kevin Cash said. “Game-saving, momentum-changing play right there.”
There also was a quirky homer by Harold Ramirez, a fly ball that barely got over the low wall in the leftfield corner, a “blast” measured at 323 feet that came with two asterisks.
One because he broke his bat. The other because, with an exit velocity of 85.4 mph, it was the softest hit of any homer to go over the wall at any stadium tracked by Statcast since its 2015 inception.
“As soon as I break that bat, I just (think it’s a) fly ball to leftfield,” Ramirez said. “So I just got excited it was a home run.”
But the night belonged to Paredes, 23, who was moved into the No. 2 spot in the order for the first time (and playing first base for just the second time).
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“It was very impressive,” Cash said. “Isaac has done a nice job since he’s been here. Plays the game well. He knows where to be positionally on defense, makes plays. And the bat, we’ve seen some power. Not like (Tuesday). But happy for him. That’s pretty special. That’s a day he will not forget.”
By homering in the first, third and fifth innings, Paredes became the sixth Rays player to go deep three times in a game. He joined Lowe, Travis d’Arnaud, Evan Longoria (twice), B.J. Upton and Jonny Gomes.
“It’s a beautiful thing,” Paredes said. “I’m glad I was able to experience that.”
When he went up to bat in the seventh, his adrenaline was flowing for a fourth homer, which would have tied the major-league record, but he was hit by a Ron Marinaccio pitch.
Nestor Cortes, who gave up Paredes’ first two homers, didn’t seem impressed.
“I mean, just put three good swings — or two good swings off me,’' Cortes said. “I think the other times, he’s been out, so just, it was his day.’'
Cash said that when the Rays acquired Paredes from the Tigers in late March they saw him as a hitter with good bat-to-ball skills and a penchant for quality at-bats whose power would come. It has, as he has now hit eight homers in 31 games after hitting just two in 57 games over 2020-21. (Also of note, in 36 games for Detroit, Meadows has no homers.)
Where did Paredes get the extra pop?
“I’m not 100-percent sure,” he joked. “I think maybe I just work out more.”
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