Thursday, December 14, 2017
Tampa Bay Rays

New dad Sean Rodriguez shines, Rays beat Rangers

ST. PETERSBURG — For Sean Rodriguez, Thursday was special and emotional as he got to witness his wife, Giselle, give birth to their fourth child, a 9-pound boy named Zekiel Cruz. ("I definitely got my infield down, first to third," Rodriguez said joking.)

The 28-year-old watched his teammates play on television that night, then slept on a pull-out couch at Bayfront Baby Center, getting plenty of rest thanks to his cooperative son. That certainly helped as he was back in the lineup Friday night.

"Sean knew there was a lefty pitching (Friday), so there was no way he was going to miss," manager Joe Maddon said.

When Maddon offered Rodriguez congratulations in the clubhouse Friday afternoon, he said, "Let's go, Daddy." And boy did daddy go as Rodriguez hit a three-run homer and tied a career high with four RBIs in an 8-1 victory over the Ran­gers in front of 14,304 at Tropicana Field.

As Rodriguez crossed the plate after his fifth-inning blast, he tapped the white hospital bracelet that read, "Baby Boy Rodriguez."

"Obviously, the birth of your own child beats anything," he said. "But that's definitely a good way to finish off the night."

Rodriguez sure made the night of rookie right-hander Jake Odorizzi, who picked up his first win by throwing six shutout innings. Odorizzi, named the fifth starter during the final week of spring training, said he was comfortable and confident, pitching like he belonged while scattering three hits.

Odorizzi said getting his first win, in his seventh start, was "surreal." So was the beer shower afterward.

"Coldest and best shower I've ever had," he said. "I'll take that shower every day."

Rodriguez gave the Rays (3-2) a lead in the first by getting hit by a pitch from lefty Joe Saunders with the bases loaded. Then in the third, Rodriguez belted a 374-foot, three-run homer to left.

"He's got that 'dad strength,' " Rays rightfielder Wil Myers said. "That was awesome."

Meanwhile, Odorizzi kept the potent Rangers lineup off balance by being a little unpredictable. He was helped by the game-calling of veteran catcher Ryan Hanigan, who also had a three-run homer.

"I just followed him all day," Odorizzi said. "I might have shook (him off) once."

Odorizzi got a big break in the fourth, when the Rangers' Prince Fielder didn't see third-base coach Gary Pettis waving him home on a single. Fielder held up and got caught in a rundown for the second out.

"That was a big part in the game," Odorizzi said. "That changed the whole inning."

Everything went right for the Rays, from the Rangers' four errors (two by Gold Glove third baseman Adrian Beltre) to Maddon successfully using his first instant replay challenge in the seventh to preserve Myers' sliding catch.

But it was tough to beat Rodriguez's day, which included a diving stop at first base and ended with another night on a pull-out couch next to Zekiel.

"He had a pretty complete evening, including a little bouncing baby boy at home," Maddon said. "Good for him."

 
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