ST. PETERSBURG — Isaac Paredes tends to get overlooked among the Rays’ big swingers.
Randy Arozarena has an engaging personality that makes him a fan favorite. Yandy Diaz is a core member of the lineup. Wander Franco has the big hype and bigger contract. Josh Lowe and Luke Raley are having breakout seasons. Jose Siri is flashy.
All Paredes does, typically quietly, is contribute.
Then there are nights like Friday, when he hit two home runs and drove in a career-high six runs to lead the Rays to an 8-3 win over the Rangers in the opener of a weekend series matching the teams with the two best records in the majors.
“He certainly fits us really, really well,” manager Kevin Cash said. “He’s a very, very good player.”
Want more proof?
Paredes now leads the team in RBIs, his 44 one more than Arozarena and five more than Lowe.
“He’s doing everything he can to help us win,” Arozarena said via team interpreter Manny Navarro. “He’s doing a great job this season.”
Given the Rangers’ offensive prowess (they lead the majors in runs, average and run differential) and strong starting pitching, the series was billed as a test for the Rays — maybe even more so than May series against the Yankees, Orioles, Brewers and Dodgers, or the most recent matchup vs. the Twins.
But the Rays showed, in the opener anyway, they are up to the challenge, improving to 47-19. The Rangers dropped to 40-22.
“They’re a really good team. We know that; they’re in first place in their division,” Arozarena said. “But we also feel we’re a pretty good team. It was a great way to be able to get that win (Friday).”
Starter Tyler Glasnow had a big hand in it, working six strong innings. He held the Rangers to one hit — a solo homer by No. 9 hitter Leody Taveras in the third — while walking three and striking out six. Plus, he regained the high-end velocity that was missing Saturday in wet and chilly Boston, hitting 99 mph with his fastball and averaging 96.7.
Glasnow’s reward was his first win since June 8, 2021, the start before the one in which he sustained the elbow injury that led to Tommy John surgery and kept him out until late last season.
“I think (Friday) was the first time that I felt back to relatively normal,” Glasnow said. “I think in my bullpen session going into this game, (pitching coach Kyle Snyder) was like, ‘You’ve got to move quicker.’ Looking at old video, and he helped me out a bunch. So I went out there, and he kind of gave me some cues and it felt way better.”
Rookie Kevin Kelly pitched the seventh, and recently recalled Luis Patino finished — allowing two more solo homers, which along with Taveras’ earlier shot were Texas’ only hits.
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Paredes was acquired near the end of spring 2022 from Detroit for Austin Meadows, and it took a few months for him to establish himself as a key part of the lineup. He hit 20 homers but batted only .205 and totaled 45 RBIs.
This year, he has been more productive overall (hitting .270), getting semi-regular time while playing solid defense at third base, second and first.
“With the bat, we saw it last year, I think there’s more confidence this year,” Cash said. “He’s been probably a tick more consistent. We want him to pull the ball; that’s his strength. But he has shown the ability many times here this season to go to rightfield to pick up an RBI with two strikes. So, his awareness at the plate is pretty elite.”
Paredes said he doesn’t mind not getting the attention and is appreciative of the Rays giving him a shot.
“I think it gives me a lot of confidence,” he said via Navarro. “I have the confidence to be able to demonstrate and show off exactly what I can do, and they gave me that opportunity.”
Glasnow said the Rays know Paredes is a key player.
“He’s got that reputation, for sure,” he said. “He’s a solid player. He’s always locked in, always very consistent. He’s just always serious and stern and just always ready to play. I’ve never seen him like up or down or angry at all. No matter how he’s playing, he’s the same dude. And he’s a phenomenal baseball player.”
Do they ever see Paredes smile?
“Oh yeah, a few times we’ll get it,” Glasnow said. “It means a lot. When he smiles, it’s like, ‘Yeah.’ Or if you can make him laugh or something, it’s like, ‘Wow, I did it.’ Anytime he’s smiling, it’s good.”
After an RBI double, three-run homer and two-run shot Friday, Paredes had reason to.
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