ST. PETERSBURG — Believe it or not, third baseman Evan Longoria called his shot before the Rays turned a momentum-swinging triple play in the sixth inning.
The Yankees had taken a 3-2 lead against rookie right-hander Jeremy Hellickson and appeared close to taking over the game. After a Nick Swisher RBI double, Rays manager Joe Maddon decided to walk Jorge Posada to load the bases with no outs for catcher Russell Martin, thinking double play.
Longoria was thinking more, pointing out the possibilities in the last thing said in a meeting with teammates on the mound.
"I told (second baseman Ben Zobrist), 'If it's hit close to the base, I'm just going to step on it and let's try to turn a triple play,' " Longoria said.
Said Zobrist: "And that's exactly what happened. It was crazy. A great call."
Martin, who had homered earlier, hit a hard grounder to Longoria's right. He was looking changeup and got one but rolled it over. "I just hit it in the wrong spot," Martin said.
Longoria corralled it, stepped on third and made a great throw to Zobrist, who turned and got it to fill-in first baseman Sean Rodriguez to beat Martin's head-first slide.
Longoria said though Martin "doesn't run terribly for a catcher," in the Yankees lineup he's the one player "you have a chance" to turn a triple play on.
"I was trying to get down the line as fast as I could," Martin said. "I'm just not fast enough."
It was the third triple play the Rays have turned in club history and first since September 2006. And it was arguably the most important, with the Yankees threatening to mount a big rally in a must-win game for the Rays.
"That was a big break for them," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.
Even the always stoic Hellickson showed some emotion. "I was real excited," he said. "It went from being a four- to five-run inning to one run."
Maddon could tell the energy fill the dugout, which was "pretty animated" and "any possible handshake that they had, they took it out of their back pocket and utilized." One inning later, Matt Joyce hit a three-run homer to give the Rays the lead for good.
Said Maddon: "The triple play was very, very fortuitous."
Joe Smith can be reached at email@example.com.