Sunday, February 25, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays' Souza deflects credit after big game

ST. PETERSBURG — Before Steven Souza Jr. would talk about his two homers and career high-tying four hits overall in Wednesday's 5-3 victory over the Blue Jays, he wanted to make sure to give credit to two teammates who put the Rays in position to win.

Tim Beckham, for knocking in their first run with a bases-loaded single in his first action of the season. And Desmond Jennings, whose hit-and-run single to right (on a borderline pitchout) in the eighth sent Evan Longoria to third and set up Souza for his three-run homer.

Souza's first home run, in the sixth, barely made it, eluding the glove of CF Kevin Pillar and bouncing off the top of the wall then over.

His second, in the eighth, was a no-doubter, leaving his bat at 107 mph, per MLB StatCast, and traveling 438 feet. "That one," he said, "I got pretty good."

Since the ball landed on the newly rebranded Ducky's Deck — for the restaurant owned in part by Longoria — Souza said there is an extra bonus.

"Longo said I get a free corn dog," he said. "I'm watching my figure, so I may trade the corn dog for a salad."

MORE MOORE: LHP Matt Moore liked the way he competed Wednesday, allowing his three runs on a homer by Josh Donaldson, but he lasted only five innings since he threw 102 pitches. "His pitch count got driven up simply because it seemed like he was pitching behind quite a bit," manager Kevin Cash said. "But I think that was a testament to how good his stuff was, because in a lot of 2-0, 2-1, 3-1 counts there still wasn't a ton of damage done. So there's a bright spot in there somewhere."

MORNING AFTER: A day later, Rays players were still processing how they won Tuesday's game, on the walkoff replay reversal stemming from Jose Bautista's violation of the new second-base slide rule.

"It was a crazy finish," 1B Steve Pearce said. "We were very fortunate it worked out our way."

Jays manager John Gibbons was still frustrated with the call and with the reaction to his postgame comments, where he said, among other things, that given the rule changes away from old-school baseball "maybe we'll come out wearing dresses tomorrow."

Gibbons said he was trying to "inject a little humor" into the frustrating situation and didn't mean to offend anyone.

"My wife, my mom and my daughter found it kind of funny. They know me," Gibbons said. "I do think the world needs to lighten up a little bit. … I cannot understand how that would offend anybody, to be honest with you. ''

Gibbons was criticized on social media and other platforms for offending women and being misogynistic.

"I tried to inject a little humor into kind of a tense situation, that's kind of who I am," he said. "No ill intent."

NEW MAN: OF Jake Goebbert was claimed on waivers from the Pirates, added to the 40-man roster and optioned to Triple-A Durham. Goebbert, 28, has played only 51 games in the majors, all with San Diego in 2014. Though their 40-man roster is now full, the Rays can move RHP Alex Cobb to the 60-day DL if they need to add a player.

LEANING RIGHT: Facing a lefty starter for the first and potentially only time in the first 10 games, the Rays had their three right-handed bench players in the lineup. Pearce started at first, Beckham at short and Brandon Guyer in left, allowing Jennings to get a day off the Trop turf, a part of their body maintenance plan to keep him healthy.

MISCELLANY: C Curt Casali's third-inning popup hit the A-ring catwalk, which is 194 feet above the field, just the fourth ball to reach that in 19 years of play. … Donaldson left in the seventh with a strained calf and is day to day.

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