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Sunday, May 20, 2018
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Martin Fennelly Columns

Fennelly: Rays show September games can change in an instant

ST. PETERSBURG — It's September and games can turn just like that.

It can turn in extra innings, when the right fielder, the rookie hitting star, takes his time — and it costs his team a run as someone scores from first on a single to right center in the top of the 11th for a 3-2 lead. That's what happened to Wil Myers on Wednesday night. Games can turn like that.

And they can turn back. This one did, when David DeJesus grounded a two-out single up the middle in the bottom of the 11th inning to tie it back up, 3-3. And Desmond Jennings winning it an inning later with an RBI single as the Tampa Bay Rays beat the Texas Rangers, 4-3.

You can't go to sleep on a wild-card race.

You snooze, you lose.

The Rays did, then they didn't.

They lead the wild-card race again.

It's September. One second you're on top, the next second you're in trouble.

Then you're not.

Myers threw softly to Ben Zobrist after easing over to grab Adrian Beltre's line single to right center in the top of the 11th inning. Elvis Andrus ran for third. Only Andrus didn't stop at third, he raced for home. Zobrist's throw couldn't catch him.

And it looked bad.

And then it didn't. DeJesus came through.

It's September and games can turn like that, for better, for worse.

It can be Texas, runners on second and third, one out in the 12th.

It can be the Rays, getting out of it. Worse, then better.

It's September, and a goat can become a game-winner. Take Jennings, He proved once more down the stretch that as center fielders go, he's a left fielder. Jennings misplayed a liner to center in the second inning — two steps in, followed by uh-oh — for a triple that scored two Rangers runs. Fans would have battered B.J. Upton for something like that.

Jennings looked as if he was on the hook for this one.

And then he wasn't.

Then came the better: Sean Rodriguez in the sixth inning, when Rays bats were doing next to nothing. Rodriguez hit a two-out, two-run homer to tie the game at 2. He threw in a diving catch in left in the ninth. A few minutes later, he was lifted for pinch-hitter DeJesus, who promptly flied to right. What was Joe Maddon thinking?

Speaking of better, there was Chris Archer and a small army of Rays relievers, who hung in there inning after inning, through the 12th.

True, Roberto Hernandez, who might as well change his name again, put the go-ahead run on in the 11th, hitting Andrus with one out before giving way to Alex Torres, who got the second out. Then Beltre delivered that single … and Wil Myers eased on over …

Andrus churned for home as Myers soft-tossed to Zobrist.

You snooze, you lose.

Or do you? With two outs in the 11th, Matt Joyce worked a walk and newcomer Freddy Guzman ran for him, and stole second, though he looked out. Then DeJesus delivered. Oh, that's what Joe Maddon was thinking.

So they went to the top of the 12th inning. And the Rays got out of it, somehow.

In the bottom of the 12th, Jose Lobaton led off with a single, and Yunel Escobar sacrificed pinch-runner Sam Fuld to second.

And then came the game-winner, a single to right, scoring Fuld.

The batter: Desmond Jennings. After all that, Desmond Jennings, from goat to savior.

You can't ever go to sleep on September.

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