Friday, May 25, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Bourgeois an inspiring hero for Rays

ST. PETERSBURG

One question: When it came to breaking the most miserable losing streak of the Rays' season, who had Jason Bourgeois in the pool?

Bourgeois?

Really?

For goodness' sake, Bourgeois just got here. There is still Durham dirt in his cleats. Evidently, there is still something in his bat, too.

Some players are born underdogs. Bourgeois is one of them. Over the past 14 years, he has spent 1,287 games in the minors, 225 in the majors. So, yeah, he was a long shot to be here, and he is a longer shot to stay around for very long. But Wednesday night, Bourgeois grabbed one of those moments that makes players stick around the game, hoping for one more taste, one more memory.

It was the bottom of the ninth against the Mariners, and the Rays had loaded the bases. That wasn't that rare. It was getting the runner home that had become a hardship for the Rays. Their hitters were 13 for the previous 64 with men in scoring position.

Then it was Bourgeois walking to the plate with the score tied at 4.

"Get something to drive," he would later say about his approach. "We had no outs, bases loaded. That's like a hitter's dream to be in that situation with the game on the line. I couldn't ask for a better one."

Still, you have to remember Bourgeois was only in the game because he had pinch-run for James Loney in the eighth inning. At the time, no one was thinking about Bourgeois with a bat in his hand. It was an afterthought move for an afterthought of a player.

That's the thing about baseball, though. Sometimes the moment will find a guy.

Bourgeois took a strike to start his at-bat. Then, on the second pitch, he sent the ball high and deep over the rightfielder's head. He took four strides, then let go of his bat. He passed first base, then turned and covered his head with both hands as his teammates rushed toward him to celebrate.

Finally, victory.

He is 31, and there are times you wonder why he has hung on. He had a good year for Houston in 2011, hitting .294 in 252 at-bats. But last year he had 16 hits for the Royals. He signed a minor-league contract with the Rays in the offseason, waiting, hoping, for a moment when he would matter.

That moment came Wednesday night, and frankly, it felt huge juxtaposed against the losing streak that had preceded it. The Rays had struggled for six games, losing when they scored eight, losing when they scored none. The starting pitchers' ERA had soared to 6.93.

For a while there, you could chuckle when people suggested Ben Grieve was starting in rightfield or Vinny Castilla was playing third that night. It was beginning to feel like those woebegone teams of yesteryear. Oh, everyone knew this team was better than it was playing — didn't July prove that? — but the thought of a team that someone had kicked the power plug out on was too painful to mention.

Bourgeois?

Really?

Now, if you had expected a hero out of Wednesday, you might have expected David Price. After all, Price has been one of the best pitchers in baseball since coming off the disabled list. In July he was 5-1 with a 1.68 ERA, and he pitched, as manager Joe Maddon said, like a man who had had baseball taken away from him and then returned.

Surely, you thought, Price was going to be John Wayne. He was going to throw darts into the eyes of hummingbirds, and he was going to juice the clubhouse, and it was going to fire up Alex Cobb for his return tonight, and order was going to be restored.

Maybe it was going to be Evan Longoria (who did hit a ninth-inning double) or Wil Myers (who hit a two-run homer).

Instead, it was Bourgeois.

Really?

This year Bourgeois was hitting .291 at Durham. Not bad, but not exactly the stuff of confetti. No one talked about Bourgeois the way they talked about Myers. For that matter, who knows how long Bourgeois will even be with the Rays. They have two roster moves to make to get Cobb and Desmond Jennings back on the roster. Does this change things?

"That's an outstanding moment for Jason," Maddon said. "He's a great guy, a guy that worked very hard to get to the big leagues in the first place, and he's always working hard to stay there. It's really nice to see that moment for him."

No one talked about Bourgeois as an up-and-comer. It is fair to say the expectations were low.

One at-bat and everything changes. Suddenly, the world is shiny and new, and Bourgeois has earned himself another at-bat or two. Yes, some players will have to be sent down in the coming days to make room for Cobb or Jennings. But after this, how can you say no to this guy?

Bourgeois?

Yes, really.

Comments
Rays journal: Blake Snell, flying Denard Span finally solve Red Sox

Rays journal: Blake Snell, flying Denard Span finally solve Red Sox

ST. PETERSBURG — Having lost two straight and nine of 12 times overall to the Red Sox, the Rays needed two things to go right Thursday:First, a strong start from Blake Snell.Second, some early runs against Rick Porcello from an offense that had...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Thursday’s Rays-Red Sox game

Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Thursday’s Rays-Red Sox game

Home cooking clearly agrees with OF Denard Span. The 34-year-old Tampa product continues to deliver, producing at the plate, running the bases, making diving catches in the outfield, and Thursday, even going over the short sidewall twice in hot pursu...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Rays once again will ‘open’ with relievers this weekend

Rays once again will ‘open’ with relievers this weekend

ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays weren't kidding about being serious that starting relievers gives them the best chance to win.So much so, they plan to do so again this weekend against the Orioles — in all three games. The plan is for Sergio Rom...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Rays tripling down on starting relievers vs. Orioles this weekend: Romo, Stanek, Romo

Rays tripling down on starting relievers vs. Orioles this weekend: Romo, Stanek, Romo

The Rays aren't kidding about being serious in using relievers to start games.After unveiling the strategy last weekend against the Angels, manager Kevin Cash said they planned to use it again, and he made that official on Thursday, naming Sergio Rom...
Published: 05/24/18
For starters: Rays vs. Red Sox, with Snell on the mound

For starters: Rays vs. Red Sox, with Snell on the mound

Having lost a pair of close games, the Rays will try again tonight to beat the Red Sox, and will have LHP Blake Snell on the mound.SS Willy Adames is in the lineup for the Rays for the third and what is expected to be the final time before being sent...
Published: 05/24/18
Rays morning after: Chris Archer, David Price sure matched up like they meant it

Rays morning after: Chris Archer, David Price sure matched up like they meant it

For two guys who said they didn't make much of matching up, they sure dueled like they did in Boston's 4-1 victory that was decided after they left.Chris Archer, the Rays current top starter, worked six impressive innings, allowing one run and four h...
Published: 05/24/18
Rays journal: Could Sergio Romo be looking at pitching 3 straight games?

Rays journal: Could Sergio Romo be looking at pitching 3 straight games?

ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays' pitching rotation for the weekend series against the Orioles could have a familiar look: Romo, Romo, Romo.Manager Kevin Cash said using veteran right-handed reliever Sergio Romo as the "opener" in all three upcoming g...
Published: 05/24/18
Rookie’s error in 9th helps doom Rays against Red Sox

Rookie’s error in 9th helps doom Rays against Red Sox

ST. PETERSBURG — Willy Adames was so excited to be in the big leagues, even if was for just a three-day cameo callup. So thrilled to make a smashing debut with a homer on Tuesday. So proud to have his parents and sister fly in from the Dom...
Published: 05/24/18
Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Wednesday’s Rays-Red Sox game

Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Wednesday’s Rays-Red Sox game

In a way, the timing of RHP Jake Faria's oblique injury seemed manageable in that RHP Nathan Eovaldi is close to coming off the disabled list and can step in. But on the other hand, the Rays finally could have four regular starters. Imagine that.Ther...
Published: 05/23/18
Rays’ Jake Faria may be out until August, Vidal Nuno called up

Rays’ Jake Faria may be out until August, Vidal Nuno called up

UPDATE, 5:32: Faria is looking at at extended absence, potentially into August. Cash said an estimate of 6-8 weeks was on the optimistic side. "From what we found out he got it pretty good," Cash said.  "So it could be a little bit longer than t...
Published: 05/23/18