Friday, December 15, 2017
Tampa Bay Rays

Ben Zobrist's two-run homer in 11th lifts Tampa Bay Rays to 3-1 win over Texas Rangers

ST. PETERSBURG — Ben Zobrist isn't one to show much emotion on the field during a game.

But Friday night's 3-1, 11-inning win over the Rangers in front of 19,545 at Tropicana Field was no ordinary night for the Zobrist family. Zobrist's wife, Christian pop singer Julianna, started it off by singing the national anthem, and he finished it 3 hours, 32 minutes later with the first walkoff homer of his life, a two-run blast with no outs in the 11th.

"That was really exciting," Zobrist said. "I'm just really happy we all got to experience a really fun night."

Zobrist exuberantly raised his right arm to the roof as he made the turn at first base and lifted Tampa Bay (76-62) to its fourth win its past five games. The victory also pulled the Rays within one game of Baltimore for the second AL wild-card spot and within two games of the East-leading Yankees.

"That may be the first time in major-league baseball history that happens, when the wife sings the anthem and then the husband hits a walkoff homer," manager Joe Maddon said. "I really, really believe that might be a first."

It was also a big night for reliever Wade Davis, who became the seventh Ray to pick up a win on his birthday. Davis, who turned 27, struck out the side in the 10th and two more in the 11th, continuing his impressively smooth transition this season from the rotation to the bullpen.

"Wade was spectacular," Maddon said. "That first inning of Wade was about as electric as you're going to see out of any relief pitcher."

It was a stellar night of pitching all around. Right-hander Jeremy Hellickson set the tone with six strong innings, allowing just one run (a solo homer by Michael Young in the fifth). "Otherwise," Maddon said, "he was almost perfect."

But Rangers left-hander Derek Holland was better, holding the Rays to two hits while striking out a career-high 11 in eight innings.

"That was the best I've ever seen him," Maddon said.

Third baseman Evan Longoria gave the Rays their first hit with a solo homer in the fourth, his fifth in his past 11 games and 11th for the season.

The score remained tied through 10, thanks to impressive work by both bullpens, including Rays right-handers Kyle Farns­worth, Joel Peralta and Fernando Rodney each tossing a perfect inning. Combined with Davis, they retired 14 of the last 15 Rangers, who entered the night as the highest-scoring team in the majors.

The road-weary, AL West- leading Rangers arrived around 4 a.m. Friday on the last leg of their 10-game trip. They didn't have hard-throwing relievers Alexi Ogando and Mike Adams available, so they turned to fellow right-hander Mark Lowe in the 11th, and he walked B.J. Upton to lead off the inning.

Zobrist watched two sliders go for balls, then pulled a 2-and-0 fastball 386 feet into the rightfield seats, tying him for the team lead with 23 tying or go-ahead RBIs this season.

As for Zobrist's wife, Maddon said she's welcome back anytime to sing the anthem.

"I'm sure she'd be ready and willing," Zobrist said, "if that's always the outcome."

 
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