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‘Man, I feel good’: Rays’ Daniel Robertson describes his pinch-hit walkoff grand slam

ST. PETERSBURG — This is why you stay until the end.

You hope to see something you've never seen before.

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And that's what happened Sunday at Tropicana Field. The Rays, who entered the ninth trailing the Marlins by three runs, weren't supposed to win. Ninety-five times out of 100, teams go on to lose.
But here's the thing about baseball: You're not done until the other team gets 27 outs.

Daniel Robertson, pinch-hitting for catcher Adam Moore, was going to be No. 27. He hadn't been hitting well lately. Just three hits in his past 26 at-bats.

He was facing Marlins closer Kyle Barraclough. He had held opponents to a .129 batting average.

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No chance, right?

"I was just ready," Robertson said. "I was in the cage with (Rays batting practice thrower Manny Navarro) all day. I was joking with him. I was like, 'Man, I feel good. Mark my word, I'm going to turn this around.' "

Did he ever.

With the bases loaded and the Rays down 4-2, Robertson launched a 1-and-0 fastball over the leftfield fence for a grand slam. The 6-4 win lifted Tampa Bay back to a game over .500 (50-49).

You've seen grand slams before. You've even seen walkoff grand slams before. Two this month, in fact, and they didn't go the Rays' way.

But this one … this one did. And it was the first walkoff grand slam in team history.

"I wanted a pitch in the zone," Robertson said. "I knew (Barraclough's) pitching count was getting up there, and I just wanted something over the plate and to put an easy swing on it. I was telling them earlier that with Mallex (Smith) on second, if I found a little turf out there that it would tie the game. I put a better swing on it than that and got it over the fence."

Barraclough threw 40 pitches in the ninth, the most he has thrown in an outing in his four-season career. And that was on top of the 15 pitches he threw Saturday night.

Jake Bauers started the rally with a double. He scored after back-to-back singles from C.J. Cron and Ji-Man Choi. Carlos Gomez's strikeout put the Marlins two outs away from a sweep.

But Mallex Smith would not let them have out No. 26 without a fight. With the count 2-and-2, Smith fouled off two low borderline strikes. After taking a changeup for a ball, he fouled off three more borderline strikes. He finally put the 11th pitch in play, hitting a tapper up the middle that resulted in a fielder's choice.

What was Smith thinking about during his at-bat? The night before. On Saturday, Smith came to the plate in the bottom of the ninth with two outs and the Rays down a run.

Barraclough got him on one pitch. A popup.

"My biggest thing right there was to be patient, get a pitch that I could drive," Smith said. "He got me yesterday, and I didn't want him to get me again today. I wanted to make him earn it. Then once I got to two strikes, it was battle mode. I didn't want to give away an at-bat."

With Barraclough's fastball command slipping, Willy Adames, just recalled from Triple-A Durham, drew a six-pitch walk to load the bases and set the stage for Robertson's historic grand slam.

"I don't do what I do if not for everyone doing their part in that inning there," Robertson said. "Bauers getting it started with a double. Mallex's at-bat — gosh, I don't even know how many pitches he fouled off — but that was such a battle, such a great at bat. Willy's walk. And just the confidence that (the team has) in me to put me in that situation."

Robertson, who also had a walkoff hit July 9, said he blacked out after swinging at the pitch.

"Once I saw it go over, I literally sprinted around the bases faster than I've ever run in my life, just with adrenaline running. I just wanted to get to home plate and celebrate with my teammates."

This is why you stay until the end.

Contact Thomas Bassinger at [email protected] Follow @tometrics.

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