Austin Meadows, Mike Zunino and Brandon Lowe homered to help the Tampa Bay Rays stop a seven-game losing streak by beating the AL East-leading Boston Red Sox 8-2 on Wednesday night.
“It’s a relief, we shook hands after the game,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “We haven’t done it for a week.”
Rich Hill (6-2) struggled with his command but limited the Red Sox to one run over five innings. The 41-year old lefty, who threw 58 of 97 pitches for strikes, gave up three hits, five walks and had five strikeouts.
Rays rookie Wander Franco, who hit a three-run homer in his big league debut Tuesday, went 0 for 3 and walked twice.
The umpires had Rays reliever Diego Castillo change his hat before he pitched the ninth after meeting near the mound.
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“They just recognized some wear and tear, like dirt mark on the bill of it and felt it was best to get him a new hat,” Cash said. “It was not a substance issue, no.”
All four umpires met with Boston manager Alex Cora on the field right after the game ended.
“Just wanted to make sure what was the situation,” Cora said. “The crew said that the hat had some discolor. I don’t know where. It wasn’t sticky. It was just discolored. They wanted to make sure there was nothing weird going on. So they decided for him to switch the hat.”
“They explained the whole thing” Cora added. “No big deal.”
Major League Baseball instructed umpires to begin cracking down on the use of sticky foreign substances by pitchers on Monday.
“This is not baseball,” Hill said. “This is not what people buy a ticket to come and see. We don’t want to turn baseball into Jerry Springer. We’ve got to get back to the game itself.”
Umpire crew chief Tom Hallion said he noticed discoloration on the brim of the hat and added that it was not confiscated, just asked to be replaced.
“I inspected the hat and did not find any sticky substance,” Hallion said.
Xander Bogaerts and Christian Vázquez had RBI singles for the Red Sox, who had their lead over the Rays cut to a half-game.
Boston’s Garrett Richards (4-5) struggled again, allowing five runs, three hits and four walks in 1 2/3 innings. He has given up 15 runs over 11 innings in last three starts.
Zunino connected on his 15th homer, a two-run drive, during a three-run second as the Rays took a 5-1 lead.
Franco displayed his speed when he reached safely on second baseman Kiké Hernández’s error on a routine-looking grounder in the second that allowed Lowe to score. Hernández bobbled the ball and spiked a throw to first with Franco moving quickly down the line.
Franco drew a two-out walk in the first before Meadows made it 2-1 on his 16th homer.
The 20-year old Franco was briefly checked by a trainer in the first after his helmet came off, hit the ground and then struck under his chin as he dove back to first on a pickoff attempt.
Lowe’s three-run homer off Matt Andriese put the Rays up 8-1 in the seventh.
Red Sox reliever Josh Taylor worked the sixth and extended his scoreless appearance streak to 21 games, covering 17 innings. It’s the longest stretch ever by a Boston left-hander.
Cora, who served a one-year suspension stemming from the sign-stealing scandal by the Houston Astros, doesn’t envision himself asking umpires to check for a sticky substance.
“Obviously I’m coming from a different situation than 28 other managers,” Cora said. “At one point, if we have to do it because it’s just out of control and we see it, then we’ll address it, but as of now I don’t see it.”
Franco received over 100 text messages after Tuesday’s game, including from Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Ronald Acuña Jr. and Fernando Tatis Jr.
Red Sox: INF Christian Arroyo (right shin bone bruise) is still sore and was out of the lineup.
Rays: SS Taylor Walls (sore right wrist) didn’t start and his day to day.
Boston RHP Nick Pivetta (6-3) will start the series finale Thursday night. RHP Michael Wacha (1-2) will get the start for the Rays.