ST. PETERSBURG — As he took his lead off third base during the third inning of Sunday’s game, Rays CF Desmond Jennings said he carefully studied the approach of Houston Astros C Carlos Corporan.
“He wasn’t looking at me when he was throwing the ball back to the pitcher,” Jennings said.
Jennings waited for an opportunity — after a 2-and-0 count to 3B Evan Longoria, then what looked like another nonchalant toss back from Corporan — and pounced.
It didn’t work. Trying for the 11th steal of home in Rays’ history, Jennings soared down the line, but was instead called out. LHP Dallas Keuchel moved quickly and shoveled the ball back to Corporan for a tag. Replays upheld the call of home-plate umpire Brian Knight.
“I was stunned, actually,” Longoria said. “It kind of happened before I knew what was going on. I thought he was safe. Replay kind of looked like he was safe. If he calls him safe, he’s probably (ruled) safe. He called him out and there’s not enough video evidence to turn it over.”
“I thought I was safe,” Jennings said.
So did Rays manager Joe Maddon.
“That’s a great play,” Maddon said. “The argument (against) is Longo was hitting (with two runners in scoring position), but they’re not going to pitch to (Longoria) right there. With a 2-0 count, they might have just stood up and gone four balls (intentional walk) right there or thrown two out of the zone.
“I didn’t like it (Jennings’ decision), I loved it. And I thought he was safe.”
Maddon also was mystified by a replay call in Houston’s third inning, when Jonathan Villar doubled, then was called out trying to steal third by C Jose Molina. The call was overturned by replay.
Maddon said the advent of MLB’s replay system will place a new premium on an old fundamental skill — tagging the base.
“Tagging becomes even more crucial now,” Maddon said. “It was always a neighborhood play and he’s (called) out. Now they can actually see if he was or not.”
RHP Jake Odorizzi’s one-hit, 10-strikeout performance in 71⁄3 innings on Saturday continued to draw raves. He raised his strikeouts-to-innings-pitched ratio to 10.55, which ranks third among all major-league pitchers, behind Washington’s Stephen Strasburg (10.89) and Texas’ Yu Darvish (10.86).
If Odorizzi continues at that pace, he will be in historic company. Only three qualifying rookies in MLB history have hit that mark — Cubs RHP Kerry Wood (12.58 in 1998), Mets RHP Dwight Gooden (11.39 in 1984) and Dodgers RHP Hideo Nomo (11.10 in 1995).
“It has been fun to watch him grow as a pitcher, especially since he had a rough stretch earlier in the year,” Rays RHP Alex Cobb said. “That’s really where you find out whether a guy can be a major-league pitcher. It’s tough to handle.
“He has this internal confidence that he’s going to be one of the best out there every time he pitches. You need that (confidence) to be successful in this league. At times, he’s almost unhittable.”
Not a no-no
Several players in the Rays’ clubhouse were either aghast or greatly entertained by the Tampa Tribune’s front-page error about Odorizzi’s outing in Sunday’s editions — “Tampa Bay Rays rout Houston Astros in 8-0 no-hitter.”
LHP David Price tweeted a photo of the inaccurate headline and it was retweeted hundreds of times. Price wrote: “Well the headline isn’t true but if it was I hope it would be front and center and a picture of the pitcher.”
Odorizzi learned of the gaffe when he arrived at the clubhouse on Sunday morning.
“Everybody is having a good laugh about it,” Odorizzi said. “It’s something to talk about. I wish it was true. I’m not upset about it. Obviously, somebody made a mistake. I guess it happens.”
Odds and ends
Durant High’s Chelsea Baker, the 17-year-old knuckleballer who became the first girl to pitch for a Hillsborough County baseball team, will pitch batting practice to Rays hitters this afternoon. Baker, featured on ESPN when she played for Plant City Little League, presented an autographed baseball to Maddon at last week’s Sneaker Soiree. Maddon has it displayed on his desk. … After turning just one double play in the past 17 games, the Rays ended Houston’s third inning with a 6-4-3 double play. Overall, the Rays have turned 38 double plays, last in the MLB. … Rays pitchers collected 13 strikeouts, increasing their MLB-leading figure to 669. … For the second time in a week, Astros CF Dexter Fowler had a leadoff home run against the Rays. Sunday, he homered on the first pitcher from LHP Erik Bedard. On June 15 at Houston, he went deep off Price to start the first inning. … RHP Joel Peralta, normally the eighth-inning specialist, recorded his first save since May 17, 2013 at Baltimore. Eighteen of his last 19 appearances have been scoreless. During that stretch, his ERA has been lowered from 7.07 to 3.58. ... Jeremy Hellickson pitched five innings for Triple-A Durham on Sunday, allowing five earned runs on eight hits with seven strikeouts. It’s still possible the right-hander could be activated this week and pitch in Friday’s doubleheader at Baltimore.