Any inside-the-park home run is going to be some combination of bad defense and bad bounces. Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Luke Raley fully benefited from the latter Wednesday.
In the sixth inning of a game against the San Francisco Giants, Raley crushed a deep fly ball to right-center field off pitcher Ross Stripling. In pretty much any other MLB ballpark, the 425-foot fly ball would’ve gone over the fence. In Oracle Park’s expansive right field, however, Raley’s hit bounced off the tall brick wall, and that’s when things got weird.
The ball bounced, then bounced again off the top of the center-field wall and fell back into play. That was the good news for the Giants. The bad news was that center fielder Wade Meckler had run a little too far off the warning track and couldn’t stop the ball from bouncing several feet away from him and right fielder Michael Conforto.
Raley, who was pinch-hitting for Jose Siri, was crossing home plate by the time Meckler’s throw hit the cut-off man.
The Rays won the game 6-1.
That will likely go down as one of the oddest inside-the-park-homers MLB has seen, and it’s another reminder that defending right field at Oracle Park, particularly the portion known as “Triples Alley,” is quite a bit different from the league’s other ballparks.
The bounce at least rewarded Raley for a homer-worthy hit, continuing a breakout season for a player the Rays acquired in a little-noticed trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers a couple of weeks before the 2022 season. Raley entered this season hitting .189/.278/.284 with three homers in 144 career MLB plate appearances between the Rays and Dodgers but has turned into a masher of right-handed pitchers.
Through Wednesday, Raley is hitting .257/.340/.517 with 17 homers and 12 stolen bases. There are plenty of things wrong with the 73-50 Rays, who are fighting to hold their place in the AL East right now, but he’s not one of them.