Saturday, July 21, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Tampa Bay Rays' Ben Zobrist insists 10th-inning sac bunt was right decision

MINNEAPOLIS — It isn't quite worth billing as the curious case of Benjamin Zobrist, but it was an odd decision when the Rays' No. 3 hitter opted to bunt with two on and no outs and the score tied in the 10th inning.

Though Zobrist did move Desmond Jennings and B.J. Upton up to third and second base, and both eventually scored, he also took DH Evan Longoria out of the mix, and actually the game, as the Twins put Longoria on and he was pinch-run for.

Manager Joe Maddon made sure to praise Zobrist for his team-first thinking but said it was the wrong decision: "I prefer him swinging away right there."

Zobrist, however, insisted it was the right play.

"The thing is, it's a one-run game at that point," Zobrist said. "Having the confidence that I have in our lineup up and down, I knew the most important thing was getting the guy from second to third. … I felt good about it. I felt I would do the same thing again, especially with that particular pitcher (Alex Burnett) on the mound. And it ended up working out for us."

BIG GAME: James Shields ended up with another solid outing, impacted and extended a bit by the sloppy defense behind him but toughening when necessary, stranding runners at third in the sixth and seventh innings.

"Today was a grind," he said. "We showed a lot of character as a team. I think those couple of innings when they had man on third with one out and we got out of both those innings, that was a key part of the game."

FERNANDO-MANIA: Uncomfortable after LHP J.P. Howell put two on in the 10th, Maddon called for RHP Fernando Rodney. Four pitches later, Rodney had his major-league-leading 36th save, and team-record-extending 21st straight.

LONGO UPDATE: Longoria went 1-for-4 with an intentional walk as the DH, playing in his sixth consecutive game since returning from the DL.

But it sounds like he may get a rest tonight. Maddon said the three-hour-plus flight from Minneapolis to Seattle will be a factor in what has been a daily decision as they try to make sure Longoria doesn't reinjure the left hamstring that kept him out more than three months.

"The long flight, that would be my biggest concern so we will have to evaluate (today)," Maddon said. "We want him as often as we can but, again, I don't want to get greedy."

OPPOSING VIEW: The Rays left a good impression on Twins manager Ron Gardenhire: "They're hot. That team has been playing a lot better. They get Longoria back and you can see his presence makes a difference there. … It's a very tough baseball team to defend, and also trying to score runs off that pitching staff is tough, too. It's a good baseball team."

REHAB REPORT: DH Luke Scott continued his rehab assignment by going 2-for-6 while playing in both games of a doubleheader for Class A Charlotte. Scott, out since July 21 with a mild oblique strain, will be re-evaluated today and is looking to rejoin the Rays this week.

MISCELLANY: After going a team-record-tying 10 games without an error, the Rays made three on Sunday; their first three-error game since July 20. … Jennings had his third leadoff homer of the season and the fourth of his career.

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