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Rays outfielders rob Padres of extra bases

ST. PETERSBURG — CF Sam Fuld is known for making highlight-reel catches the past few years, helping him earn the moniker, "The Legend of Sam Fuld."

But Fuld admitted that Sunday's leaping catch at the wall in the first inning of Sunday's 4-2 win over the Padres was "up there" with his best.

With one out, Padres RF Will Venable hit a long drive to deep right-center, but Fuld raced through the gap to the track, timed his jump perfectly and snagged the ball at the top of the wall.

"It was fun," Fuld said. "I knew it was going to be close right off the bat. I knew I had a long way to go. … It's nice to get a good (catch), probably, the first really good one I've had all year."

The Rays had other ways to describe the play.

"That was unbelievable," OF Matt Joyce said. "Everybody knows Sam's a legend out there with the glove and flashing some leather."

RF Sean Rodriguez, who had a "front-row seat," called the catch "sick."

"It was awesome," Rodriguez said.

Fuld was making his third straight start in center, taking the place of injured CF Desmond Jennings (sore groin), whom manager Joe Maddon said is "almost 100 percent sure" will return Tuesday against the Red Sox. Jennings said they're just being cautious.

"My game is my legs," he said. "And I don't want to do something that could affect me for two months instead of for two days."

Fuld grew up playing center — in high school, college and the minors — and said it was "sort of nostalgic" being out there a few days in a row.

"He's a fearless guy," Maddon said. "He goes to the wall as well as anybody that I've ever had as a manager, as a coach. He's got the propensity for making the big play on defense."

MAYS STYLE: Maddon said Joyce's over-the-shoulder grab in right in the ninth was equally as good as Fuld's.

Joyce, who entered the game as a pinch-hitter in the eighth, said that with CF Chris Denorfia up against closer Fernando Rodney, he wasn't expecting a ball over his head. Joyce moved in a little bit, and Denorfia's fly ball carried over his head.

Joyce said he has had a couple of similar grabs in the past.

"I think that's, for me, my favorite play," Joyce said. "It's fun. It kind of reminds you of a football player catching a touchdown in the end zone. The crowd gets into it and enjoys it. Obviously I don't plan to catch it that way, but it just worked out that way."

CALLING OUT: Maddon, the eternal optimist, rarely calls out a player publicly. But Maddon believes it's always better to do so after a win, and following Saturday's 8-7 walkoff victory over the Padres, he was critical of RHP Jeremy Hellickson for his struggles in holding a lead.

Maddon said he was "way too emotional" to address the issue with Hellickson after Saturday night's game, but they chatted Sunday morning. Maddon said Hellickson took it "tremendously."

"Moving forward, it's all part of the accountability component," Maddon said. "Everybody has got to understand, sometimes you can paint a rosy picture. Other times you just got to paint a picture."

IN A GROOVE: RHP Roberto Hernandez, who picked up the win Sunday, has pitched to a 2.25 ERA over his last two starts, and likes where he's at. "I feel very, very comfortable," Hernandez said. "Keeping the ball down, throwing strikes, ground balls. I'm very, very happy."

miscellany: 1B James Loney, who hit a solo homer in the eighth, has homered in consecutive games for the 10th time in his career. … 3B/DH Evan Longoria has reached base safely at least twice in each of his last seven games, the first time he has done that in his career.

Joe Smith can be reached at joesmith@tampabay.com.

Sam Fuld, playing in center in place of injured Desmond Jennings, tumbles after plucking Will Venable’s drive from the top of the wall in the first.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Sam Fuld, playing in center in place of injured Desmond Jennings, tumbles after plucking Will Venable’s drive from the top of the wall in the first.

Rays outfielders rob Padres of extra bases 05/12/13 [Last modified: Sunday, May 12, 2013 10:15pm]
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