BOSTON – Down by six runs, facing Red Sox ace Chris Sale and playing at Fenway Park, the Tampa Bay Rays were just getting warmed up.
Add another remarkable win in a charmed season for these resilient Rays.
Austin Meadows hit a tying, inside-the-park homer in the ninth inning, Nelson Cruz had a go-ahead single in the 10th and Tampa Bay rallied past Boston 11-10 on Monday.
“That’s the biggest win of the year, for sure,” Meadows said. “All year we just find a way.”
The team with the best record in the American League — and the highest-scoring club in the majors — posted its MLB-leading 43rd come-from-behind win. The Rays had been 0-69 all-time when trailing by six or more runs against Boston.
The AL East leaders took advantage of four errors, the biggest when center fielder Alex Verdugo appeared to lose Cruz's high fly in the sun with bases loaded and two outs in the fourth.
The ball glanced off Verdugo's glove and Cruz wound up circling the bases on the play, scoring on second baseman Taylor Motter's wild throw that let Tampa Bay close to 7-5 against Sale.
Cruz also homered and had a pair of RBI singles as the Rays increased their AL East lead to 8 1/2 games over New York. The Red Sox missed a chance to move ahead of the Yankees for the top AL wild-card spot.
“You can’t give a big league team more than 27 outs and we did," Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. "The whole day today they made us pay.”
The Red Sox led 9-8 when Meadows opened the ninth by hitting a full-count fastball from Garrett Whitlock (7-3) off the center field wall at Fenway Park, just out of reach of a leaping Verdugo. Boston fumbled the relay, allowing Meadows to beat the throw home.
Cruz singled home the tiebreaking run with one out in the 10th, then scored on a single by Brandon Lowe that right fielder Hunter Renfore threw away for an error. In all, the Rays scored six unearned runs.
Trailing 11-9 in the 10th, Boston got within a run when Jose Iglesias hit an RBI single off Collin McHugh (6-1). With one out and runners at first and second, J.D. Martinez lined out to right.
Rafael Devers drew a walk to load the bases, but pinch-hitter Kevin Plawecki grounded out to end the game.
Wander Franco had four hits for the Rays. The 20-year-old rookie reached in his 36th straight game, tying Mickey Mantle's AL record set in 1951-52 for the most consecutive times by a player under 21; Frank Robinson set the major league mark of 43 in 1956.
Sale allowed five runs, only one of them earned, and 10 hits in 3 2/3 innings. It marked his shortest outing since returning from Tommy John surgery last month.
Sale retired the first two batters in the fourth with a 7-1 lead before the Rays rallied in the inning, capped by Verdugo's misplay.
Rays starter Ryan Yarbrough also had a short day, yielding seven runs off eight hits, with two walks and a strikeout in two innings of work. It was his quickest exit since returning from the COVID-19 injured list last month.
Richards gave up an RBI single to Jordan Luplow in the sixth to allow the Rays to trim the lead 7-6.
Boston got the run back its half of the inning on an RBI single by Renfroe. But after Richards was replaced by Adam Ottavino in the seventh, the Rays pulled within 8-7 on Randy Arozarena’s single.
The Red Sox responded again in the bottom half when Jonathan Araúz drove J.P. Feyereisen’s slider into the bullpen in center for his third home run of the season.
The Rays cut it to 9-8 in the eighth when Cruz connected on Ottavino's slider and sent it high into the center field bleachers for his 28th homer.
Rays: C Francisco Mejía left the game in the seventh with a right shoulder contusion. … IB Ji-Man Choi (left hamstring strain) will be evaluated after some on-field work Tuesday. … Manager Kevin Cash said RHP Matt Wisler (right middle finger inflammation) is expected to be activated during the series.
Red Sox: LHP Josh Taylor was reinstated from the COVID-19 list, leaving 10 players on that list since a recent outbreak of cases. Manager Alex Cora said there were no new positives Monday. Infielder Kiké Hernández and first base coach Tom Goodwin are going through testing protocols and could return soon.
McHugh intentionally balked to begin the 10th, moving automatic runner Jonathan Araúz from second base to third. McHugh slowed feigned a throw to third, prompting the obvious balk call.
The Rays led by two runs at the time -- the move prevented any chance of sign relaying from second base. Araúz eventually scored, that run against McHugh being unearned.
Longtime Rays scout Paul Kirsch died Sunday at 65 from Lou Gehrig’s disease. A minor league player and manager, he was a longtime area supervisor for the team. Kirsch scouted the Pacific Northwest through this year’s draft.
“PK was an original member of our scouting staff who I had the pleasure to work with for the last 26 years,” Rays executive R.J. Harrison said.
Said Cash: “Anybody that came across him, just what an impact he had on them.”
Rays: RHP Drew Rasmussen (1-1, 3.38 ERA) will be making his second straight start against Boston after getting a no-decision last week. He is 0-0 with a 2.53 ERA in four appearances against the Red Sox.
Red Sox: LHP Eduardo Rodriguez (11-7, 4.88) tossed six scoreless innings in a win last week at Tampa Bay. He is 4-1 with a 2.73 ERA in six starts since the start of August.
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