ST. PETERSBURG -- You don’t often see a guy make a right turn at second base and head to right field after hitting a double, unless that hit came with a runner on second base in the bottom of the ninth inning of a scoreless game and the wrong turn was nothing more than an evasive tactic by a guy who is about to get pounded by his teammates and wanted to squeeze every ounce out of his big moment.
Such was the plight of Cole Figueroa, who capped his first week in the big leagues Friday night with a game-winning double as the Rays beat the Red Sox 1-0 in front of 20,898 at Tropicana Field.
It was Figueroa’s second big league hit, and it was the Rays second walk-off win in as many nights.
“When I got to second I thought, ‘Well, might as well make this last,’ and I got a head start and I didn’t play (until that at-bat) so I was pretty fresh,” Figueroa said. “I was like, ‘I’m going to get a head start, and they’re not going to catch me, so this moment’s going to last forever.’ ”
Figueroa was the star of the night while pinch-hitting for Sean Rodriguez, who won Thursday’s game against the A’s with a three-run homer in the bottom of the 11th inning.
“It’s coming from different directions,” Maddon said of the late-inning magic. “That’s the thing I kind of like where you’re just not relying on normal guys to get this particular moment done, and with Figgy, that’s a great moment for him and his family to be able to do that.”
The Rays handed the Red Sox their eighth straight loss and tied them for fourth place in the AL East standings.
Like Thursday’s win, Friday’s victory was set up by a strong outing from the Rays starting pitcher. This time it was Chris Archer.
The Rays have talked about the starting pitchers getting on that roll where they work deep into games. If that is to happen, it has to begin some time. The question is: Did it begin Thursday with the return of Alex Cobb?
Cobb came off the disabled list and pitched 6 2/3 scoreless innings against the Oakland A’s.
Archer followed that Friday with six shutout innings in which he threw a career-high 119 pitches and tied his career-high with 11 strikeouts.
Archer’s outing wasn’t as clean as Cobb’s. Archer, pitching on six days rest, allowed at least one base runner in each of the first five innings. His only clean inning was his last when he struck out two and caught a pop fly back to the mound for the other out.
The Red Sox had two runners on base in the first, second and fifth innings.
On three occasions, Archer got the first two batters before allowing the third to reach base. That had been a problem for much of the season until his previous start against the Angels in Anaheim.
And, just as he did against the Angels, Archer was able to make the right pitch to escape the jam.
“That’s the thing I was most happy about – every pitch I was conscious, even thought I did have a high pitch count,” Archer said. “I gave it everything I had every pitch.”
Maddon liked what he saw from Archer.
“He had great stuff,” Maddon said. “He had a great fastball and a great slider, and he was not losing anything.”
Maddon called it a growth moment for Archer.
“For him to go six (innings) right there,” Maddon said, “that’s going to bleed into the next outing in a positive way.”
It has to be a growth moment for Figueroa, as well.
Called up from Triple A Durham when Ben Zobrist dislocated his thumb, Figueroa recorded his first big league hit in Thursday’s win. It was a key hit, too, moving Desmond Jennings into scoring position, where he scored the Rays first run of the game on a single by Yunel Escobar.
Maddon was going to have Figueroa pinch-run for James Loney on Friday had Loney reached base to start the ninth inning. Loney didn’t. But Jennings did when he drew a walk against Boston lefty Andrew Miller.
Boston manager John Farrell called for right-hander Burke Badenhop, hoping his sinker would induce a double play grounder. Maddon set Figueroa up to hit for Rodriguez, because Maddon said lefties are better able to lift a sinkerball in the air.
“It was kind of last minute,” Figueroa said. “The righty was warming up, and Davey (Martinez) came over to me, and he said, ‘If the righty comes in, we’re going to pinch-hit, and you’re going to go up there and win the game for us.”
Jennings stole second on what was supposed to be a hit-and-run – the same situation that produced Figueroa’s hit Thursday. The Red Sox pitched out, and Jennings still stole the bag.
Moments later, Figueroa lifted the ball into shallow center field, reaching second as Jennings raced across the plate with the winning run.
“I just try to live in the moment,” Figueroa said. “I don’t try to over-think things. On that at-bat, I got down 0-2 pretty quick and I had gotten a tip from (Evan Longoria) that 0-2 he might try to sneak one inside, and luckily his runner came over the plate a little more than he probably expected.”
It was the 14th walk-off pinch-hit in Rays history. Figueroa became the first Ray with a walk-off hit within his first four big league games.
“Obviously I couldn’t have drawn it up any better,” Figueroa said. “Besides the first 0-for-6 (in his first six at-bats), the last two days have been pretty incredible.”
Longoria had hits in his first three at-bats … Joel Peralta tied Dan Wheeler’s franchise record of 250 relief appearances when he pitched the eighth inning …It was the Rays sixth shutout of the season … Juan Carlos Oviedo pitched the ninth inning and earned his first win since Aug. 1, 2011 when he was known as Leo Nunez.