CHICAGO (AP) — The Tampa Bay Rays made it clear they were going to give Austin Meadows every opportunity to develop into the major contributor they envision him becoming.
Performances like Tuesday’s are the payoff.
Meadows homered and set a career high with four hits, Avisaíl Garcia connected against his former team and the Rays beat the Chicago White Sox 10-5.
The Rays pounded Ervin Santana (0-1) and improved to 9-3, their best start in nine years. They also extended a club record by clinching their fourth straight series victory to start a season.
Meadows drove in a personal-best four runs and helped break open a game that lasted 3 hours, 56 minutes. He singled and scored in the first, hit a two-run drive in the second and added an RBI single during a two-run fourth in which Tampa Bay chased Santana. He also walked with the bases loaded in the ninth.
“He’s got the ability to do everything well,” manager Kevin Cash said. “He can run, he can run on the bases, cover ground in the outfield. He works so hard on his defense to continue to gain ground, and hit. Whether it’s a quality at-bat or hit for power, we’ve seen both of it. He’s got a chance to be a pretty special player with this opportunity that he’s earned to get going here in the lineup and be a big part of our group. He’s bringing a lot to the table right now.”
The Rays acquired Meadows from Pittsburgh last July as part of a trade that sent Chris Archer to the Pirates for a wealth of young talent. The Rays also got hard-throwing right-hander Tyler Glasnow and highly touted pitching prospect Shane Baz.
Meadows debuted last season and played in 59 games for the Pirates and Tampa Bay. He said he got a confidence boost in the offseason when Cash told him in a phone call to show up ready to contribute.
“I feel like I belong here,” Meadows said.
Garcia smacked a solo homer in the second and finished with three hits, giving him five in the past two games. The White Sox opted not to offer him a contract in the offseason, parting ways after 5½ years, and he signed with Tampa Bay.
Brandon Lowe chipped in with a sacrifice fly in the first and a solo homer in the third. Charlie Morton (2-0) went five innings, allowing two runs and three hits.
Yoan Moncada knocked a two-run homer in the third for Chicago. Tim Anderson had two hits, including an RBI single in a three-run eighth. But with the White Sox trailing by three, pinch-hitter Adam Engel struck out swinging at a 3-2 pitch with the bases loaded to end that rally.