CLEVELAND — Austin Meadows made sure the Tampa Bay Rays kept flying high Sunday.
Meadows led off the game with a home run and was 4 for 4 with three RBIs, leading the Rays over the reeling Cleveland Indians 6-3.
Tampa Bay (31-19) is a season-high 12 games over .500 after taking three of four in the series.
"Being able to set the tone early with the home run first inning was big," Meadows said. "That’s kind of what we have been doing all year is getting runs on the board early. We feel good."
The Indians (26-26) fell to .500 for the first time since April 4, when they were 3-3, and trail Minnesota by 10 games in the AL Central. Cleveland has dropped six of seven and finished 4-7 on its longest homestand of the season.
The Indians are struggling in several areas. Their offence is near the bottom in numerous categories in the AL, and the rotation — thought to be the team’s strength — has been hampered by injuries and subpar performances.
Manager Terry Francona believes there’s only one solution to his team’s problems.
"Quitting is not an option, man," he said. "You have to keep playing. … Nobody likes to lose. Guys don’t like making outs, guys don’t like giving up hits, but you have to play through that. I think that kind of can define who you are at the end of the season is how you fight through frustration."
Cleveland scored twice in the ninth to cut into a 6-1 lead, but Jose Alvarado struck out Oscar Mercado and retired Carlos Santana on a ground ball with two on for his sixth save.
Jalen Beeks (4-0), who took over after Ryne Stanek recorded the first five outs, gave up two hits in 4 2/3 scoreless innings.
Trevor Bauer (4-4) allowed four runs in six innings and hasn’t won since April 30.
Meadows got the Rays off to a fast start by driving a 3-1 pitch to centre for his 10th homer of the season.
Meadows was hit on the right knee by Bauer’s pitch in the fifth but remained in the game and had an RBI single in the seventh. He was credited with an RBI ground-rule double in the ninth when the ball boy seated down the right field line picked up his base hit over first.
Mercado hit his first major league home run in the seventh. The rookie outfielder returned after being out Friday and Saturday. Mercado bruised his right hip after colliding with Leonys Martin while diving for a fly ball Thursday.
Tommy Pham’s RBI single and Ji-Man Choi’s sacrifice fly added two runs in the third. Pham has a hit in 12 straight games, the longest active streak in the AL.
Rain began falling steadily in the third inning and continued throughout the game.
After his first-inning homer, Meadows scored on Pham’s hit in the third and made contact with catcher Kevin Plawecki’s glove with his foot as he slid. Meadows said the inside pitch may have been in response to the slide.
"He got me pretty good on the knee, kind of squared me up actually 95 (mph) on the knee," he said. "That’s part of the game, but luckily I’m OK."
Bauer has given up 15 earned runs, including four homers over 17 innings in his last three starts. He said he’s been dealing with issues in his delivery, but thought he showed positive signs Sunday.
"It was just nice to feel like myself physically again," he said. "Feel free with no restrictions and stuff. I’m happy with it. With that part of it. Obviously not happy with the team loss."
Rays: RHP Tyler Glasnow (sore forearm) was moved to the 60-day injured list to make room for RHP Oliver Drake on the 40-man roster. Glasnow has been out since May 11. Drake’s contract was selected from Triple-A Durham. RHP Casey Sadler was optioned to Durham.
Indians: RHP Mike Clevinger (strained muscle in upper back) will throw to hitters in Arizona on Monday.
Rays: RHP Yonny Chirinos will serve as Tampa Bay’s "opener" for Monday’s home game against Toronto.
Indians: RHP Jefry Rodriguez (1-4, 4.08 ERA) will start against Boston at Fenway Park in the opener of a three-game series on Monday.