ST. PETERSBURG — Even with the speedy Brett Gardner speeding up the first base line, and even though the ball had glanced off Jake McGee’s glove, Rays second baseman Logan Forsythe felt he still had a play at first base in the top of the ninth.
Maybe he did.
Maybe he didn’t.
Whatever chance Forsythe had at getting the out went away when his throw sailed past James Loney and into the Rays’ dugout. Gardner trotted to second on the error, and from there, he easily scored what proved to be the winning run on Derek Jeter’s single past a diving Forsythe.
It was the Yankees 3, Rays 2 at a sold-out Tropicana Field, where many in the crowd of 31,042 were thrilled to see Jeter get the big hit.
Actually, they were just thrilled to see Jeter.
“It’s great,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said of the second home sellout of the year. “It’s great that it’s so loud and I understand the people like Jeter, but you got to come out and root for the Rays, too. I totally appreciate what’s going on (with Jeter retiring after this season), but I’m not going to sit here and defend all of that noise in the Yankees’ favor in our ballpark. So if you come out, root for the Rays. I’d appreciate that.”
Saturday’s sellout was the first non-Opening Day, non-postseason sellout at the Trop since last Aug. 25. The Yankees were also in town that day. They also won 3-2, albeit in 11 innings.
Saturday’s loss was just the third in 10 games for the Rays and dropped them to one game under .500.
It ruined a solid seven-inning outing by starter Drew Smyly, who was making his first start at the Trop as a Ray, and was made doubly frustrating because the Yankees scored a run in the ninth off McGee without really hitting the ball hard.
Gardner reached on what was ruled an infield hit, though Maddon thought it was an error all the way.
“I just rushed it, tried to be too quick,” Forsythe said of his throwing error. “My feet didn’t get in the right position and I got under the ball.”
Forsythe was moving to his right to field the ball and threw without setting his feet. He said McGee deflecting the ball didn’t factor in his play.
“You make plays like that off the pitcher plenty of times,” he said. “I just think I tried to get rid of it too quickly, and in that situation you just have to stay within yourself, and I got away from that and it cost us.”
Maddon said he couldn’t remember the last time Forsythe made a mistake this season. He also thought a good throw by Forsythe would have beaten Gardner to the base.
“Easily,” Maddon said. “He had him by two steps. That’s another really interesting call by the official scorer. And you can quote me on that. Please.”
Jeter grounded the ball through the infield just far enough past Forsythe that he couldn’t knock it down to keep Gardner at third base.
“I had my normal stuff, I just wasn’t locating well enough,” McGee said. “Like the Jeter hit, I didn’t locate it where I wanted to. I kind of ran back over the middle of the plate.”
Said Jeter: “(McGee) throws hard. There’s no secret to what he’s going to do. He’s going to come after you. He’s not a comfortable, easy at-bat.”
McGee said he couldn’t tell for sure if Forsythe could have gotten Gardner with a good throw on the game-turning play.
“Maybe had a little more time,” McGee said. “I know because it hit off my glove, if that had something to do with that. ... When he threw it I saw (Gardner) was still over 5 feet from the bag.”
Forsythe said he had to make the throw.
“If he beats the throw, he beats the throw,” Forsythe said. “You have to make a good play on it, get your feet right to make a good, solid throw. It was probably going to be bang-bang either way, but I rushed it.”