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Robinson Chirinos catching attention with more late-game heroics for Tampa Bay Rays

More like this: Rays starter Andy Sonnanstine, battered for 10 runs in two previous outings, shuts out the Red Sox for four innings, allowing just two hits. He got former Ray Carl Crawford to line out twice.

JAMES BORCHUCK | Times

More like this: Rays starter Andy Sonnanstine, battered for 10 runs in two previous outings, shuts out the Red Sox for four innings, allowing just two hits. He got former Ray Carl Crawford to line out twice.

PORT CHARLOTTE — Lately, C Robinson Chirinos feels like "everything is going my way."

"And I'm enjoying every second," he said, smiling.

Chirinos continued his late-game heroics Thursday, delivering a two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth to lift Tampa Bay to an 8-6 win over the Red Sox in front of a sold-out crowd of 7,322 at Charlotte Sports Park. For the Rays (5-7-1), it was their third consecutive walkoff win and fourth straight victory overall.

And Chirinos, a prospect acquired from the Cubs in the Matt Garza trade, has been a big reason why. He doubled and scored the winning run in Wednesday's 11-inning victory over the Blue Jays, and on Tuesday, he tied the score in the ninth with a two-out, RBI triple.

"Those are the kind of (situations) everybody wants," Chirinos said.

Manager Joe Maddon said Chirinos has confirmed what the Rays had heard about him, and he could provide depth this year.

Said Maddon: "We're seeing him at his best right now."

SONNY DAY: RHP Andy Sonnanstine appeared to right himself with an impressive start, allowing two hits over four scoreless innings.

"It takes a little bit of weight off my shoulders," he said.

Sonnanstine, who had given up a combined 10 runs (five homers) in his first two spring outings, said the key was not thinking about mechanics but instead competing and attacking hitters

"Much quicker arm, better location, snappier pitches, all of the above," Maddon said. "He looked like he did a couple years ago right there."

MEDICAL MATTERS: SS Reid Brignac showed little rust in the field after missing a week with a groin injury, making two plays to rob Red Sox DH Mike Cameron of hits. In the first inning, Brignac dived to his right to snag a grounder before throwing out Cameron at first. Later, he made another diving stop to force out Carl Crawford at second.

LEADING OFF: Manny Ramirez was scheduled to start in leftfield, but Maddon scratched him from the lineup because of the weather/field conditions he expected. Plus, Ramirez will be leading off today against the Pirates (as well as playing Sunday in Dunedin). Maddon said he thought it'd be "fun" to put Ramirez in the top spot today, giving him a chance to get his at-bats quicker before being off the rest of today and Saturday.

NO WORRIES: LHP Alex Torres allowed three runs and four hits in the sixth before tossing a scoreless seventh. "That is a classic example of a young pitcher and a young catcher choosing the wrong pitches," Maddon said. "It's not that he threw poorly or that he can't get those hitters out. He just has to utilize what he's got better."

CRAZY Ending: The Rays were up 5-4 with two outs in the ninth when RHP Brandon Gomes, a bullpen candidate acquired from the Padres, gave up back-to-back solo homers, the first runs he has allowed in five outings. Then the Rays' Casey Kotchman knocked in Desmond Jennings with an RBI double before Chirinos' blast.

FOR STARTERS: RHP Jeremy Hellickson is scheduled to make his spring debut today, with the strained left hamstring that sidelined him "close to 100 percent." He and Maddon are confident he will be able to start the season.

Robinson Chirinos catching attention with more late-game heroics for Tampa Bay Rays 03/10/11 [Last modified: Friday, March 11, 2011 12:06am]
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