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Friday, Apr 20, 2018
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Tampa Bay Rays

‘Bizarre’ play a key to victory

— The Rays’ go-ahead run in the eighth inning Friday was set up when RF Kevin Kiermaier walked with one out. Or struck out. No one seemed to know for sure how Kiermaier reached first base.

“I still don’t know what happened,” he said after the Rays’ 4-3, 10-inning victory against the Cubs.

Kiermaier, batting with one out and LF Ben Zobrist on second base, was facing Cubs RHP Pedro Strop. On a full-count pitch, Kiermaier felt he checked his swing and ran to first base, assuming he had drawn a walk.

Home-plate umpire Eric Cooper ruled Kiermaier swung. But the ball bounced, meaning Cubs C Ryan Sweeney had to throw to first base to complete the out. But 1B Anthony Rizzo wasn’t covering first base, so Sweeney couldn’t make the throw.

“It’s so bizarre,” Kiermaier said. “Kind of what’s been going on for me lately with weird plays like this happening. I still don’t know what happened. I’m happy. That kind of kept that inning alive.”

The play was officially scored a strikeout and a wild pitch. It became a big play in the game, because 3B Evan Longoria followed Kiermaier and struck out. Instead of it being the last out of the inning, it was only out No. 2. That allowed PH Matt Joyce to come to bat, and Joyce singled home Zobrist to give the Rays a 3-2 lead.

“Joyce came up with the big hit there,” Kiermaier said. “I’ll take it. I’m just glad we got the win.”

The windy city

Chicago’s nickname actually has more to do with its politicians, but it accurately describes Wrigley Field.

The wind was blowing in from right field, and that played a pivotal role in the first inning, knocking down a drive by Rizzo off Rays RHP Chris Archer that seemed destined to land on Sheffield Avenue.

“Oh my god, I thought it was over everything,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said.

Rizzo and Cubs 2B Javier Baez, who was on first, thought that ball was gone and were into their home run trots when the ball bounced off ivy-covered right-field wall. Zobrist was able to get to the ball and keep Baez from scoring. The Cubs scored only one run that inning.

“It was one of the most relieving moments that I’ve had,” Archer said. “Seriously, I look up, I thought it was gone and it’s 2-0 with one out and I’ve thrown eight pitches at this point. But to look up and see that we got it in quick, I don’t know, maybe one run scored, and that’s all they got. That was huge for me.”

8th is the new 9th

Archer batted eighth Friday as Maddon went with the unorthodox lineup for the fourth time this season and fifth since last August when RHP Jeremy Hellickson batted sixth against the Dodgers in Los Angeles.

Maddon favors the move made popular by Hall of Fame manager Tony La Russa, because it brings the pitcher’s spot in the order up quicker in case he wants to pinch-hit, and it allows Maddon to hit Kiermaier ninth. With Desmond Jennings batting leadoff, Maddon said that gives him two leadoff hitters in the lineup.

“What I’ve really become a fan of the No. 9 hitter being a second leadoff hitter, whether it’s an American League lineup or a National League lineup like it is now,” Maddon said. “With Kiermaier hitting in the 9-hole has been a really productive spot for us, either driving in runs or getting on base for the top of the batting order. I think it really highlights or accentuates the circular nature of the batting order and you don’t want that clipped at the end. I’m kind of digging it. I know it played well in St. Louis.”

2B Logan Forsythe hit ninth Friday because Maddon went with an all right-handed lineup against Cubs LHP Tsuyoshi Wada.

Kiermaier will return today to the ninth spot, where he is batting .270 with a .318 on-base-percentage.


Jennings hit the 3,000 home run in the majors this season, according to ESPN Stats. ... RHP Joel Peralta pitched a scoreless seventh inning to extend his streak of scoreless appearances since he returned from the disabled list to six. ... Greeting fans outside the main gate at Wrigley Field on Friday was a Devil Rays flag. It was replaced by a Cubs flag after photos of the wrong flag appeared on Twitter. ... Longoria’s seven-game hitting streak ended. ... C Curt Casali drove in his first big-league run with a fielder’s choice that scored 1B Sean Rodriguez from third base. Rodriguez snapped an 0-for-14 slump with a triple. ... RF Wil Myers (right wrist fracture) is expected to begin his minor-league rehab assignment tonight in Durham with the Triple-A Bulls.

Roger Mooney

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