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Tampa Bay Rays' Matt Joyce enjoys third grand slam as much as first two

From left, Matt Joyce is greeted at home by Elliot Johnson, Chris Gimenez and B.J. Upton after hitting a go-ahead grand slam in the third inning.

EDMUND D. FOUNTAIN | Times

From left, Matt Joyce is greeted at home by Elliot Johnson, Chris Gimenez and B.J. Upton after hitting a go-ahead grand slam in the third inning.

ST. PETERSBURG — OF Matt Joyce acknowledged that the first two grand slams of his career were "hard to top."

His first was a two-out, pinch-hit blast against the Twins on July 3, 2010, capping a seven-run eighth in a rousing road win. Later that month, Joyce broke up Tigers RHP Max Scherzer's no-hit bid in the sixth inning with a two-out grand slam, lifting the Rays to a win over his former team.

But while Joyce's third-inning grand slam against the Braves on Saturday wasn't as dramatic, it gave the Rays the lead for good in a 5-2 victory.

"It doesn't make it any less special, that's for sure," said the Armwood High grad. "It's been pretty fun. I'm really fortunate to be in such a good situation and to play at home and come up in some big opportunities and come through."

Joyce, who leads the Rays with eight homers, found himself in a hitter's count with one out in the third and got what he expected, a 2-and-0 fastball, ripping it 412 feet and over the centerfield wall. Manager Joe Maddon thought it was headed for the Rays tank; Joyce said it might have been the hardest he has hit a ball.

Said Joyce: "That's all I've got."

TV TIME: OF Sam Fuld admitted he was a little nervous for his scheduled appearance on today's Sun Sports broadcast, where he'll be in the booth with Dewayne Staats and Brian Anderson throughout the game.

"It's not my cup of tea," Fuld said, before joking, "there won't be much dead air, I'm a little worried about getting a few words in among the two of them."

But Fuld will be talking about a topic he's passionate about: statistics, going over acronyms such as WAR (wins above replacement). He has been interested in numbers since he was a child, when he would routinely check newspaper box scores.

"I had a little handbook when I was a 6-year-old I would carry around that had everybody's stats," Fuld said. "I was a nut, a baseball nut, from an early age."

Fuld, on the disabled list following right wrist surgery, hopes to return to baseball activities soon.

IDOLS TO FOES: LHP David Price grew up a diehard Braves fan, making today's start against them a little more special.

Price, 26, would drive with his family from its Nashville home to one game a summer. "I took the lineup card out (Friday) night and it was me and Terry Pendleton," Price recalled. "He sticks his hand out to shake mine, tells me he's a big fan of mine. I'm just sitting there thinking, 'I idolized you when I was a kid.' "

PENA POWER: With 1B Carlos Peña struggling, Maddon had him do a small-ball batting practice drill before the game, an exercise that makes a hitter use his hands more in his swing. Maddon believes Peña has been using too much of his body and has been expanding his strike zone, a reason why he entered Saturday hitting .131 with 24 strikeouts in May. Maddon said he wanted to see Peña accept his walks more, and he picked up two in the game. "I saw better patience," Maddon said.

MEDICAL MATTERS: OF Desmond Jennings (left knee sprain) was running around Saturday and could return close to the eligible date of May 27. Maddon said he's unsure if Jennings would need at-bats somewhere before he rejoins the team.

INF Will Rhymes returned to the lineup three days after getting hit in the right forearm with a pitch and fainting on the field. Rhymes went 0-for-3 with a walk and played well at second.

MISCELLANY: Braves 3B Chipper Jones (left calf bruise) was not in the lineup, and it appears doubtful he will play today. … Don Zimmer was at the game, saying he continues to feel better and drove himself to the park. The Rays senior adviser is undergoing dialysis treatments. … DH/OF Hideki Matsui went 0-for-4 in his fifth game for Triple-A Durham.

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

Tampa Bay Rays' Matt Joyce enjoys third grand slam as much as first two 05/19/12 [Last modified: Sunday, May 20, 2012 12:34am]

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