CLEVELAND -- — Austin Meadows hit a pair of two-run homers, Ji-Man Choi had three RBI and the Tampa Bay Rays beat Cleveland 8-2 on Saturday night, extending their winning streak over the Indians to 11 games.
The Rays moved into a first-place tie with Boston in the AL East. They have not lost to the Indians since May 24, 2019. The franchise’s longest winning streak against an opponent is 12 against Baltimore in 2008.
Meadows, Choi and Brett Phillips each homered in the first three innings to help Tampa Bay build a 4-1 lead against J.C. Mejia (1-6). Choi also drove in runs in the seventh and ninth, and Meadows hit his second two-run shot in the ninth.
“Just an awesome job by everybody,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “We got an early lead and that helped a lot, and there were a lot of big hits at good points of the game.”
Choi and Joey Wendle each went 4 for 5 for Tampa Bay, which has won five in a row overall and shares the best record in the AL. Choi doubled twice and scored three runs.
“I had some pretty good at-bats and I put the barrel on the ball,” Choi said.
Louis Head (1-0), a 31-year-old rookie, earned his first major league victory with two-plus innings of relief. The right-hander spent nine seasons in the minors — the first seven in the Indians’ organization — before debuting with the Rays on April 25.
“It felt like a dream come true, honestly,” Head said. “This whole year has been crazy from being called up on my birthday, pitching in my first game, and now getting my first win against the team that drafted me.”
Drew Rasmussen pitched the first three innings for Tampa Bay, allowing a solo homer by Bobby Bradley. Cleveland scored its other run in the sixth when César Hernández reached on Head’s error and came home on Franmil Reyes’ groundout.
Mejia worked a season-high tying six innings, allowing five runs, but remains winless in nine starts. His only victory was in relief at Detroit on May 24.
Cleveland manager Terry Francona was sent home by the team’s medical staff before the game as he battles a lingering head cold. Bench coach DeMarlo Hale filled in.
“I thought J.C. competed well and he gave us a chance,” Hale said. “He had some tough innings, but we kept sending him out because he was throwing well.”
Bradley Zimmer had two of the Indians’ five hits and made a leaping catch in center to potentially save a run.
Nelson Cruz went 0 for 5 in his second game with the Rays after being acquired in a four-player trade with Minnesota.
Rays SS Taylor Walls was optioned to Triple-A Durham in order to add RHP Sean Poppen to the roster. The 25-year-old Walls shined in the field over 39 games, but was in a 1-for-17 slump that dropped his average to .212.
“Taylor was unbelievably impressive defensively, but we’re in a bit of a roster crunch and need pitching,” Cash said. “He’s a major league player and we know he can help us when he comes back.”
Rays: RHP Tommy Hunter (lower back pain), who was acquired from the Mets in exchange for LHP Rich Hill, has not been ruled out for the season by general manager Erik Neander. Hunter has been on the 60-day injured list since June 11.
Indians: OF Jordan Luplow (left ankle sprain) is batting .300 with two homers and four RBI through four games on his rehabilitation assignment with Triple-A Columbus. Luplow was injured at Detroit on May 24 and remains on the 60-day IL.
Rays: LHP Ryan Yarbrough (6-4, 4.59 ERA) makes his 15th start in the four-game series finale. He is 2-0 with a 2.19 ERA in two career outings against Cleveland.
Indians: RHP Triston McKenzie (1-4, 5.91 ERA) is on a seven-start winless streak, posting an 0-3 record with a 6.67 ERA since winning at Kansas City on May 6.
Buck O'Neil joins Gil Hodges, Minnie Minoso, others in being elected to Baseball Hall of Fame
Buck O'Neil, a champion of Black ballplayers during a monumental, eight-decade career on and off the field, joined Gil Hodges, Minnie Minoso and three others in being elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday.
Minnie Minoso is finally in Cooperstown! And more on this weekend's Baseball Hall of Fame vote
Not everything in baseball is on lockdown. This weekend, the doors to Cooperstown opened for several deserving candidates -- including the most deserving of all.
How long has an MLB lockout been in the cards?
Jeff Passan shares that people around baseball were predicting a lockout as far back as five years ago.
Daisuke Matsuzaka ends 23-year career, surprised by Ichiro Suzuki in ceremony
Daisuke Matsuzaka, saying he was "content" to end his 23-year professional baseball, was surprised by an appearance from Ichiro Suzuki during his retirement ceremony.
Atlanta Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson and USWNT soccer player Mallory Pugh announce their engagement
Swanson earned a ring with a World Series win last month. Pugh got a ring this month. The two world champions announced their engagement and add to a star-studded list of power couples associated with the U.S. women's national team.
MLB lockout in full effect as players, owners remain at an impasse
MLB commissioner Rob Manfred and union head Tony Clark voice opposing views of the players and owners that point to a lengthy lockout.