If there was any question that the Tampa Bay Rays were going to struggle Friday night against the Orioles, the answer came in the second inning, as the Rays scored seven runs, highlighted by an Austin Meadows grand slam, to easily defeat the Orioles at Camden Yards in Baltimore 7-1.
Even though they were dressed in all-white uniforms that made them look like ice-cream men, the MLB Players' Weekend gimmick that allows the players to have some fun, the Rays didn't play like ice-cream men, at least for one inning.
Trevor Richards had a shaky first inning, but settled in for an excellent six innings that the Rays' pitching staff needed. Richards allowed only two hits and a walk, striking out five, including the last four he faced for the night.
Aaron Slegers closed out the final three innings and earned his first major-league save, making him the 10th Rays pitcher to earn a save this season. The Rays are now 22 games over .500 for the first time since 2010, when the Rays finished 96-66.
Jonathan Villar hit a solo homer for the Orioles in the eighth off Slegers for Baltimore's lone run.
With the win, the Rays lead the American League wild card standings by a half game over the idle Oakland A's and the Cleveland Indians, who kept pace with a 4-1 win over the Kansas City Royals Friday night.
Richards' only trouble came in the top of the first, after a leadoff walk to Villar. Then with one out, Anthony Santander doubled Villar to third, but Richards got Renato Nunez to fly out to shallow center, and Villar did not test Kevin Kiermaier's arm, holding at third. Richards then induced DJ Stewart to ground out to second baseman Michael Brosseau, ending the only serious threat the Orioles were able to muster off Richards.
Next up in the second were the Rays, who took full advantage of O's starting pitcher Ty Blach, who walked the leadoff hitter Jesus Aguilar. Then after a Willy Adames strikeout, Brosseau singled to right, then Kiermaier drove in Aguilar with a double to left. After a Guillermo Heredia strikeout, Mike Zunino singled to right, scoring Brosseau and Kiermaier.
Up next was Matt Duffy, who walked, and then Tommy Pham singled to the right side, setting the stage for Meadows, who slammed a 2-0 pitch to the right centerfield seats, giving the Rays a 7-0 cushion.
For Meadows, it was his first career grand slam, giving him 23 homers and 67 RBIs on the season, leading the team in both categories. And extra special for Meadows, his father was in the stands watching the game.
Other than those story lines, there really wasn't much action throughout the remainder of the game; the Orioles hit three warning track fly balls, but didn't really do much to threaten other than in the first.
* Richards picked up his first Rays win, he's now 4-12 on the season. Blach is now 0-2.
* Orioles pitchers retired the final 10 Rays hitters they faced.
* Jose Alvarado (1-5, 4.55 ERA) will be Saturday's opener for the Rays. He'll face John Means (8-9, 3.75 ERA). Game time is 7:05 p.m.