Friday, February 23, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Lobaton's walkoff homer lifts Rays over Blue Jays

ST. PETERSBURG — When this homestand started, Rays catcher Jose Lobaton had zero walkoff hits in his big-league career.

Then his parents, Tomas and Maria, arrived last week from Venezuela to watch him play for the first time in the United States. And now Lobaton has two walkoff hits in three days, including the winning homer in the 10th inning Sunday to lift the Rays to a 2-1 victory over the Blue Jays in front of 23,373 at Tropicana Field.

That led manager Joe Maddon to lobby for Lobaton's parents to be permanent fixtures at the Trop. "Season ticket holders," he joked. "I can't necessarily say we'll pick up the tab regarding the plane flight, but once they're in the ballpark, I'll buy Mr. Lobaton's beers. Whatever he needs, I'm in."

Lobaton's folks won't be moving here anytime soon, but they enjoyed one spectacular show by their son this weekend.

On Friday, Lobaton came through with a walkoff triple in the ninth inning, calling it the best feeling he has had on a baseball field. Then Sunday, after striking out in his first three at-bats, Lobaton ripped Brad Lincoln's 2-and-1 pitch into the rightfield seats.

"It's unbelievable," Lobaton said. "It's something you want to do all the time, you want to feel that every day. Hopefully, it's not the last time."

Maddon said the Rays (70-52), who moved back within a game of the AL East-leading Red Sox, started to feel a lot more like themselves during their 4-2 homestand, which included three walkoff wins. They got a strong seven-inning start from rookie Chris Archer in a pitcher's duel with St. Petersburg native and Northside Christian product Todd Redmond. They played spectacular defense, including a few more gems by third baseman Evan Longoria, who also homered. And Maddon said they witnessed the kind of "magical" and "funky" moments they've experienced in their best seasons.

"It's got that feel to it," Maddon said.

The Rays caught a break in the ninth when Edwin Encarnacion missed a go-ahead homer by an inch, his line drive off Fernando Rodney bouncing off the top of the shorter 5-foot wall in the leftfield corner and back into play. "Very, very lucky right there," Maddon said.

"That," leftfielder Matt Joyce said, "was the game."

The Rays had just blown a golden opportunity to take the lead in the eighth, when they put runners on first and third with no outs. They came up with nothing, partly thanks to a botched safety squeeze by Jason Bourgeois that led to Sean Rodriguez getting caught in a rundown between third and home.

Bourgeois whiffed on the bunt, but Rodriguez said he "messed up" by being overly aggressive. "Loby picked me up," Rodriguez said. "It's huge, I don't have to leave the clubhouse with a little bit of frustration, I can leave with a smile."

So could Lobaton. As many strides as he has made in his second full season, Maddon said the confidence he derives from the walkoff hits can "make him into a different player" and take his game to "another level."

To commemorate the homer, Lobaton received the typical Gatorade bath and whipped cream pie, along with a huge tub of ice cream he took on the plane ride to Baltimore. But before entering another crazy clubhouse celebration, which included a new smoke machine, Lobaton hugged his parents goodbye.

Lobaton smiled, "I would like to have my dad and mom here all the time."

     
Comments
Rays’ Honeywell has torn UCL, headed for Tommy John surgery

Rays’ Honeywell has torn UCL, headed for Tommy John surgery

The Rays got the worst-case news they were dreading, that top prospect RHP Brent Honeywell has a torn UCL and is headed for Tommy John  surgery.Honeywell said he plans to have the surgery as soon as possible to expedite his return sometime in th...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Live blog: Rays open spring training season against Pirates, Orioles

Live blog: Rays open spring training season against Pirates, Orioles

The Rays open the exhibition season with not one, but two games today.Non-roster pitcher Vidal Nuno will start against the Pirates at 1:05 p.m. in Port Charlotte. Denard Span, Matt Duffy, Kevin Kiermaier, Wilson Ramos, Mallex Smith and Adeiny Hechava...
Updated: 3 hours ago
For starters: Split squad opener for Rays – vs. Pirates and at Orioles, 1:05

For starters: Split squad opener for Rays – vs. Pirates and at Orioles, 1:05

With 15 teams training in Florida,  there usually has to be either be at least one team off or one team playing two games. And with today the official opening day of spring training, the Rays had the bad draw of having to play split squad games....
Updated: 3 hours ago
Rays spring training info: Friday – vs. Pirates and at Orioles

Rays spring training info: Friday – vs. Pirates and at Orioles

Friday's games:Vs. Pirates1:05, Charlotte Sports Park, 2300 El Jobean Road, Port Charlotte. Pitchers: Rays – LH Vidal Nuno; Pirates – RH Taylor Eppler.Radio: raysbaseball.com, MLB At Bat app (free with mlb.com account)Tickets: raysbasebal...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Rays holding their breath

Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Rays holding their breath

Rays top pitching prospect Brent Honeywell left practice Thursday after throwing a handful of pitches, and the fear (now confirmed) is he might need Tommy John surgery, ending his season before it begins.In his lastest podcast, Rick Stroud has the la...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Brent Honeywell injury could be worst Rays news yet

Brent Honeywell injury could be worst Rays news yet

PORT CHARLOTTE — It might have seemed that things couldn't get worse for the Rays after an opening week of spring training that included the dumping of two veterans to harshly negative reviews, including from their own players; to the trade of ...
Published: 02/22/18
Updated: 02/23/18

How the Rays’ DFA of Dickerson paid off, with a reliever and a prospect from Pirates

PORT CHARLOTTE – The Rays' surprising and controversial decision to designate for assignment 2017 All-Star OF/DH Corey Dickerson to prompt a trade paid off Thursday in a deal with the Pirates.Assuming you consider it a good return to get vetera...
Published: 02/22/18
Rays find taker for Corey Dickerson, get Daniel Hudson, prospect from Pirates

Rays find taker for Corey Dickerson, get Daniel Hudson, prospect from Pirates

The Rays found a taker for OF/DH Corey Dickerson, trading him Thursday to the Pirates for veteran reliever Daniel Hudson, minor-league INF Tristan Gray and $1-million cash.Hudson, 30, will compete for a spot in the Rays bullpen, coming off a rou...
Published: 02/22/18
New pitcher Anthony Banda already “loving the vibe” with Rays

New pitcher Anthony Banda already “loving the vibe” with Rays

Acknowledging the "whirlwind" that comes with being traded, LHP Anthony Banda said he is excited to come over from Arizona because he figures to have a better opportunity with the Rays.And he already likes the fit."I'm very excited to be here and con...
Published: 02/22/18
Spring is in the air as games start today

Spring is in the air as games start today

After a week of players stretching, doing mundane drills and practicing practice, spring training moves to the next phase today with the start of exhibition games.Ah, baseball in the sunshine.Consider it a soft opening in this part of the state, with...
Published: 02/22/18