CHICAGO -- Underneath that calm, quiet, stone-like exterior of Brad Boxberger is an inferno. At least that’s what his boss says.
“He has a lot of fire, man,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said.
Maddon might not have felt that fire, but he said he heard it when Boxberger returned to the mound in the 10th inning after blowing a save by allowing the Cubs to tie the score in the ninth.
The Rays took the lead in the 10th, which is why Boxberger tried to close out the game for the second consecutive inning. Maddon said Boxberger was the right pitcher for the job, and Maddon was comforted when he heard Boxberger “yelp” as he climbed the dugout steps.
“It was not necessarily animalistic, but it was definitely different coming from him,” Maddon said. “It was a noise. It was a sound. It was like pleasure, and for that I thought good was going to occur.”
Boxberger retired the Cubs in order and the Rays won 4-3 in 10 innings during their first game at Wrigley Field since 2003.
Kevin Kiermaier, who entered in the eighth inning as a pinch-hitter, singled home Desmond Jennings to give the Rays their second straight win and even their record on this 10-game road trip at 2-2.
“I was just happy to see us grind out a win,” Kiermaier said. “We need wins like these where our backs are against the wall.”
The Rays twice trailed by a run. They tied the score at 1-1 in the third inning when Jennings homered and tied it at 2-2 in the seventh when Sean Rodriguez tripled and scored on a fielder’s choice grounder by Curt Casali.
Then the Rays went ahead in the eighth inning when Matt Joyce delivered a pinch-hit single that scored Ben Zobrist.
Jake McGee was called upon to face the top of the Cubs order in the bottom of the inning and pitched around a leadoff single to send the game to the ninth inning.
Maddon brought in Boxberger to finish the job.
But former Ray Justin Ruggiano led off with a pinch-hit single and moved to second on a bunt. Ruggiano scored on a broken bat single through the middle by Ryan Sweeny. The hit was the first by a lefty off Boxberger in 44 at-bats.
“A broken bat ground ball found a hole,” Boxberger said. “Nothing you can do.”
Maddon allowed Boxberger to bat for himself in the top of the 10th once the Rays took the lead. Boxberger even put the ball in play, grounding out to second to end the inning. Then he returned to the dugout to get his glove and yelped on his way back to the mound.
At least that’s Maddon’s story.
“I don’t know, maybe I did,” Boxberger said. “I was definitely excited to be back out there and get another opportunity. I definitely wanted to get back out there and do what I know I can do.”
The game was played in front of a crowd of 34,937. Included in that total was a large number of Rays fans who made the trip to Chicago’s Northside to see their team play in the historic ballpark.
“We all noticed it,” Boxberger said. “They were out here early for BP and showed their support.”
The Rans fans made their presence felt during the 10th inning as Boxberger breezed through the Cubs order. Many stood and cheered when Boxberger got two strikes on Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo.
“They were loud,” Boxberger said. “I could hear them on the mound.”
And they remained standing and yelling as Boxberger got Rizzo to bounce back to the mound for the final out.
“(Boxberger) was outstanding again, (the broken bat hit in the ninth) was just unfortunate,” Maddon said. “How about him coming back and getting the thick part of the batting order?”