Monday, February 19, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays blow lead but beat Cubs in 10 innings

CHICAGO — Manager Joe Maddon knew what he heard, but he was having trouble describing it. It wasn't a scream, not exactly a holler nor a yell, deciding eventually that Brad Boxberger had "yelped."

Boxberger had just blown a one-run lead for the Rays in the ninth inning of Friday's Wrigley Field matinee with the Cubs. But when the Rays went back ahead in the 10th, Maddon wanted Boxberger to get another chance, so much so that he let him bat.

And the standardly stoic and quintessentially quiet Boxberger apparently made it quite clear how much he appreciated it.

"It was not necessarily animalistic, but it was definitely different coming from him," Maddon said of Boxberger's noise. "It was a noise. It was a sound. It was like pleasure, and for that, I thought good was going to occur."

Quite good occurred. Boxberger set the Cubs down in order to seal a 4-3 win the Rays nearly gave away. "I definitely wanted to get back out there and do what I know I can do," Boxberger said.

The Rays (56-59) notched a series of big hits to get to that point in their first game at Wrigley since 2003, with a large, loud contingent of their fans in the crowd of 34,937.

There was a tying homer from Desmond Jennings in the third, a triple by Sean Rodriguez that helped pull them even in the seventh and a pinch-hit single by Matt Joyce in the eighth that put them ahead as Maddon, exhaustingly, used his bench extremely well.

But they made mistakes, too. The biggest came when former Cubs prospect Chris Archer, pitching okay after a shaky first, threw away what would have been a double-play ball that led to Chicago's go-ahead run in the fourth.

Sticking to his no-closer philosophy, Maddon had Jake McGee work the eighth against the top of the Cubs' order, which is why Boxberger pitched the ninth.

He gave up a leadoff single to former Rays outfielder Justin Ruggiano, who moved to second on a bunt. Then Boxberger, who hadn't allowed a hit to a lefty since May 20 (a combined 0-for-43 since) could only watch as Ryan Sweeney broke his bat and bounced a single up the middle that scored the tying run.

"Broken-bat ground ball finds a hole," Boxberger said. "Nothing you can do."

The Rays, who remained 10 games back in the Americ an League East and 5½ back for the second wild card, rallied again. They got three straight one-out singles off Hector Rondon, by Jennings, Ben Zobrist and Kevin Kiermaier, another lefty who came up big off the bench, to retake the lead.

There was some redemption there for Kiermaier as well. He was upset over a "bone-headed" eighth-inning error. "That was a big relief for me," he said.

After Evan Longoria flied out to complete his 0-for-5 day, Maddon decided he'd rather have Boxberger — much to the pitcher's surprise — make the last out and try to finish the game again than trust anyone else in his bullpen.

Plus, he sensed Boxberger wanted the opportunity. "He has a lot of fire," Maddon said.

So did Boxberger really scream, or holler, or yelp? "I don't know; maybe I did," he said. "I was definitely excited to be back out there and get another opportunity."

Maddon was sure he was. " I really thought this was great," he said. "He had given up a point. He had the toughest part of their batting order coming up. He just had an at-bat. And I know he's totally loose out there. When he yelps coming out of the dugout, I know he's fine."

   
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