Friday, November 24, 2017
Tampa Bay Rays

Two plays create confusion for Rays against Cubs

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CHICAGO — With the series of big plays and distinctly National League-style nine pitching changes and six substitutions — plus two replay challenges — there was plenty that actually happened in the Rays' 4-3 10-inning win over the Cubs on Friday.

"When you manage a game like that," Rays manager Joe Maddon said, "you actually feel as though you played when it's over."

But there also were two key plays that weren't exactly as they seemed.

With one on and one out in the first, Cubs 1B Anthony Rizzo crushed a ball to rightfield that everyone, starting with Rays pitcher Chris Archer, assumed would land on Sheffield Avenue, but the ball was knocked down by the wind and hit off the wall for a double.

"It hung up in the air for a long time," Archer said. "I kind of turned my head and went to get a new baseball, and next thing I know, the umpire is saying it's in play. So I go to back up home. It was one of the most relieving moments I've ever had. Seriously. I look up, and I thought it was gone and it's 2-0 and I've thrown eight pitches to that point."

Added Maddon: "I thought it was over everything."

That Archer limited the Cubs to one run that inning turned out to be big.

Then with the score 2-2 in the eighth, Kevin Kiermaier pinch hit with Ben Zobrist on second and one out. He thought he checked his swing on a full-count pitch. Kiermaier headed to first even though he heard plate umpire Eric Cooper yell, "Yeah" as if he swung. Kiermaier noted no one told him to leave first even when the Cubs' Rizzo said he thought he had been called out.

Turns out, Cooper did call it a strike. But the ball bounced, and between the confusion and Rizzo not covering first to receive a throw, C John Baker couldn't do anything about it. It ended up being scored a strikeout and wild pitch.

"It was so bizarre," Kiermaier said. "I still don't know what happened."

But important because after Evan Longoria made the second out, Matt Joyce singled in the go-ahead run.

WRIGLEY FAN: Maddon had never been inside Wrigley Field until Friday, and he liked pretty much everything he saw from the ivy-covered walls to the scoreboard to the light structures to the surrounding neighborhood.

"I think it is the essence of baseball," Maddon said. "You talk about Fenway and what that's all about; the way this is even more of a neighborhood kind of a setting than Fenway is uniquely cool. So my first impression is pretty impressive."

EIGHT IS ENOUGH: Maddon batted Archer eighth, the sixth time he has employed what otherwise is an unusual strategy. It has been done with an AL pitcher only two other times in the 18 seasons of interleague play. Maddon's reasons are twofold: It creates more flexibility for pinch-hitting because the pitcher's spot comes up sooner, and it doesn't disturb the circular lineup concept he likes with the No. 9 hitter as the second leadoff man.

FAN CLUB: Several players and Maddon said it was nice to see — and hear — the noticeably large contingent of Rays fans who made the trip.

"It's really incredible where it's gotten to with fans actually following us," Maddon said.

MISCELLANY: OF Wil Myers was to take batting practice with Triple-A Durham again Friday and if all went well, he could start a 10-day-or-so rehab as soon as today. Though weather might be an issue. … Maddon was successful on a first-inning replay challenge on a play at second base, improving to 14-22. … Zobrist got to 25 doubles for the sixth straight season. … C Curt Casali picked up his first big-league RBI on a fielder's choice grounder. …There might be some clarity today on the status of C Chris Gimenez, whom the Rays have interest in after he was designated for assignment by Texas. … CF Desmond Jennings' homer was the 3,000th in the majors this season.

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