Joe Maddon wanted to get James Loney off his feet for a day to recharge his batteries. The afternoon bled into the evening and in the bottom of the 9th inning he came to the plate as a pinch hitter for Sean Rodriguez.
Rays pinch hitters hadn’t had much success on the year hitting just .197 (31 for 157) without a home run. James Loney in limited plate appearances had been 3 for 7 in his pinch hitting role.
After fouling off a 92-mph cutter off Loney turned on a 96-mph fastball and deposited in the seats in right. It was the Rays 13th walk off victory by the 11th different player.
It was the Rays first walk off pinch hit home run since Brandon Allen blasted one off Jordan Walden of the Los Angeles Angels on April 26, 2012. It was only the 5th pinch-hit walk off homer in Rays franchise history.
The pinch-hit walk off homer gave the Rays the 4 game sweep over the Baltimore Orioles and extended their lead over the idle Cleveland Indians in the wild card race. The Texas Rangers fall to 2.5 games out but can make up the 1/2 game by defeating the Houston Astros later tonight.
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The Rays cut the lead to 3-2 in the bottom of the 4th on a Jose Molina double that scored Tim Beckham all the way from first.
Archer only lasted 4.1 innings allowing 4R/ER on 5 hits striking out 7 and walking 2 but like so many of the games between the two teams this series the Rays bullpen came in to slam the door and allowed the Rays to come back.
Thanks to the September roster expansion Joe Maddon has ample arms to play mix and match in his bullpen and he utilized 6 relievers who combined to hold the Orioles scoreless on 5 hits striking out 5 and walking 2.
The game was also kept in check thanks to two beautiful throws by left fielder Ben Zobrist…who did not know he was starting in left field until about an hour before game time.
In the top of the 7th inning Nick Markaksi delivered a 2-out single into left and Zobrist came up and threw a strike to Jose Molina to nail Alexi Casilla at home.
In the top of the 8th inning Matt Wieters hit a double off the wall in left hat seemed to get away from Zobrist. Wieters tried to advanced to third but Zobrist fielded the ball and threw a strike to retire Wieters.
A scary moment came in the top of the 6th inning. Manny Machado sent a single through the right side of the infield but as his foot hit first base he crumpled and grabbed his knee. The training staff came out and called for the stretcher and Machado was carted off the field.
One of the biggest ailments the Rays have had in recent weeks has been their failure to come through with the bases loaded. They were 0 for their last 18 with the last hit coming on August 26th by James Loney.
Myers sent a fly ball floating into short right field. Alexi Casilla drifted back and made a diving attempt. The ball seemed secure in his glove as his head hit right fielder Nick Markakis knee and the ball came bouncing out as two runs crossed home plate and the score was tied 4-4.
There was some disagreement about the call but Charlie Reliford (supervisor of umpires) was in attendance and relayed Rule 2.00 in the MLB rule book which defines a catch….specifically that time and space are not involved in whether to rule a catch or not:
In establishing the validity of the catch, the fielder shall hold the ball long enough to prove that he has complete control
of the ball and that his release of the ball is voluntary and intentional.
The Rays had a big opportunity to take the lead in the bottom of the 8th inning. Yunel Escobar and Matt Joyce alked to put runners at 1st and 2nd with nobody out. David DeJesus came in to pinch hit for Jose Molina and hit into the 6-4-3 double play and Jose Lobaton grounded out to end the inning.
Fernando Rodney had worked the last 3 days and was unavailable so Joel Peralta came in to work the top of the ninth which concluded with a strike out to Chris Davis who had homered and walked twice previously in the game.
Peralta picked up the win to improve to 3-8 with a 3.28 ERA and Tommy Hunter took the loss to fall to 5-4 with a 4.17 ERA.
This victory was another Rays DNA game with good pitching, defense, and timely hitting.