ST. PETERSBURG — This is why you stay until the end.
You hope to see something you've never seen before.
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.
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.