Tuesday, February 20, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays pull off hidden ball trick

LOS ANGELES — The elements were somewhat benign. 3B Evan Longoria gave a quick wave of his glove, then later took a few sneaky steps. 1B James Loney made a nonchalant toss. And SS Yunel Escobar a knowing look and a casual relay.

But the result was noteworthy, and entertaining, as the Rays pulled off the old hidden ball trick.

"That was something you don't really see too often and you don't really have a chance to do too often," Longoria said.

The fourth-inning highlight was set up when the Dodgers had the bases loaded and all three runners advanced on a fly to center.

Loney cut off CF Wil Myers' throw near the mound and tossed it to Escobar, who lobbed it to Longoria standing in foul territory behind the bag. Longoria slowly approached the base, and as soon as Juan Uribe stepped off, Longoria tagged him, with umpire Angel Hernandez alertly making the out call.

"The only guy who didn't know what was going on was Uribe," Escobar said, with bench coach Dave Martinez translating.

Longoria said one key was acting quickly enough before the umpires called time but not too obviously to alert Uribe or third-base coach Tim Wallach. The other — "the best part of the play" — was that Loney used Escobar as the relay to disguise their intention.

Escobar said he is always looking for that kind of opening, that "it's a play I've always had in the back of my mind" and he has tried it many times, including several this season, but this was the first time it worked in the majors.

"Yunel-inspired," manager Joe Maddon said.

The Dodgers had fun with it, too, hooting at Uribe to be careful when he got to third later in the game, then making a postgame presentation. 1B Adrian Gonzalez went to Uribe's locker with a base that had a shoe taped to it and a ball and bottle of Gatorade tucked inside, then made Uribe pose for a photo. "It's a good play. They did a good job," Uribe said. "I made a mistake. Every day you see something different. I've never seen it before. I got surprised."

PITCHING IN: RHP Alex Cobb, out since June 15, came through his Friday rehab start well and with a normal bullpen session this week is set to rejoin the rotation Thursday. … LHP Matt Moore (elbow) felt good playing catch again Saturday and is set to throw off the mound today for the first time since going on the DL. How he does and how he feels on Monday will determine his timetable as he hopes to return by next weekend.

ABOUT FRIDAY NIGHT: Friday's 7-6 loss was most frustrating to the Rays because they led 6-0 early and 6-1 with four outs to go. But relievers Josh Lueke and Joel Peralta allowed two runs to score in the eighth, and Fernando Rodney was a mess in the ninth, allowing hits to four of the first five hitters, then the winning run when he fielded a grounder and threw wildly past second base.

That made it the 11th time this season the Rays lost when blowing a lead in the seventh inning or later. "That's a little heavy," Maddon said. "That's really put us behind the 8-ball. Just go 50-50 on that, I'll take it. It is unusual for us. We do need to get away from that. I thought we had. That was something we had done early in the season. To revisit it is no fun right now."

MISCELLANY: 3B coach Tom Foley was ejected for the second time as a coach; he was tossed twice as a player. … Myers' streak of reaching base was snapped at 22 games, two shy of the team rookie record held by Rocco Baldelli, who, now a special assistant for the team, was at the game. … Maddon said it was "kind of funny" to be the guest for ceremonies honoring two Japanese players who achieved fame with the host teams but finished their careers as Rays, Hideki Matsui in New York and Hideo Nomo on Saturday.

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