MIAMI — “Bittersweet” was the first word Anthony Bemboom could come up with, and it really didn’t seem strong enough.
Consider this balancing act of emotions he had to deal with Wednesday.
In the second inning the 29-year-old rookie catcher, making his second start since an unexpected Friday callup, laced a double for his first big-league hit that scored the only run in the Rays’ tense and eventful 1-0 win over the Marlins.
And in the fifth inning he slid to his left to block a pitch, a move he figured he had made a thousand times, and he sprained his left knee, severely enough that, according to manager Kevin Cash, he is headed to the injured list.
"It’s a little tough,’’ Bemboom said. “Obviously anything I can do to help the team win is great; I’m excited about that. But also any time you’re not on the field it’s kind of tough not being able to help your team win and be available to your teammates.’’
Cash had a similar take, contrasting the “awesome” moment of getting the first hit and the “frustrating” result of the injury.
“I feel for him simply because I think he’s going to miss some time here,’’ Cash said. “He has a knee sprain, and he got it pretty good.’’
As the 26-15 Rays packed for New York — the 3-hour, 6-minute effort allowing them to hang on to their AL East lead after the Yankees swept a doubleheader from the Orioles — there was a lot more to unpack.
Two other Rays were hurt but, apparently, not severely enough to miss extended time.
Outfielder Guillermo Heredia was hit on the right wrist while pinch-hitting in the fifth. X-rays were negative.
Third baseman Yandy Diaz rolled his left ankle when he had to make an awkward stop rounding third in the sixth but also is considered day to day.
Diaz got hung up when Willy Adames’ ground ball was deflected, then smothered in shallow left as coach Rodney Linares switched from sending him to holding him. “There were a lot of moving parts,’’ Cash said. “No fault by anybody.’’
Bemboom was hurt in the fifth and played another inning before leaving. He will be further evaluated Thursday, but it seems likely he will be out and Nick Ciuffo will return to back up recently acquired Travis d’Arnaud.
“I went down in kind of an awkward position, felt a little instability in my knee, felt a little soreness, a little stiffness,’’ Bemboom said. “It’s crazy. I’ve made that move a thousand times in my career before. It was just something that happened. I don’t know how to explain it. It’s tough.’’
The injury marked a wicked turn of events.
Earlier in the night when he got his hit, his parents, Debbie and Greg, were not only watching after returning home to Minnesota after attending his debut at the Trop, but they took video of their reaction, then tweeted it with the text: “Wouldn’t miss it #gluedtotheipad.”
It was as awesome as you would expect, as they were watching nervously, staring intently at their iPad and then clapping, throwing their arms in the air and celebrating.
Bemboom felt pretty good then, too.
“It was great, a little bit of relief,’’ he said. “You always want to get that first one out of the way.’’
There were other helping hands as the Rays protected the 1-0 lead, especially from the half-dozen relievers they used before a Marlins Park gathering of 5,947, second-smallest of the season.
“Sometimes you have to find a way to win a 1-0 game, and a lot of things have got to go your way,’’ Cash said. “Our pitching was outstanding, but we put ourselves in some tight, sticky situations. It was impressive to watch, to a man, how they stepped off, took a deep breath, made some big pitches and kind of kept Miami’s offense quiet.’’
Jalen Beeks, who took over after a one-inning opener stint by Ryne Stanek, allowed two singles in the fourth, but he struck out Rosell Herrera to end that threat.
After Emilio Pagan came on with two outs in the fifth and allowed two on, second baseman Brandon Lowe, after a key play in the outfield as part of the four-man alignment to keep Brian Anderson at third, smothered a Starling Castro grounder up the middle and made the throw to end the inning.
“It was intense,’’ Lowe said. “You were kind of on your toes the whole game. They had a lot of good at-bats. Our pitchers just did what they had to do, and they got the job done, thankfully.”
Pagan created more trouble by allowing a walk and a double to start the sixth, but he got himself out of it. He got Jon Berti looking at strike three, Herrera on an infield popup and Martin Prado on a called third strike.
“Got myself in a little bit of a jam,’’ Pagan said. “I felt like I threw some decent pitches, but they just put some good swings on them. … Obviously that was a huge part of the game, and it was a lot of fun competing against those guys. They put together some really good at-bats, and I’m glad I got out of it.”
Chaz Roe allowed a two-out double to Jorge Alfaro in the eighth, then balked him to third, but he retired Berti on a popup to end it.
Fittingly, the ninth also had some drama, as Diego Castillo worked around a one out walk.
“Pagan was big,’’ Cash said. “Brandon Lowe’s inning we did the four-man outfield on (Neil) Walker, that’s a run right there because we don’t have a rightfielder playing there. To me Brandon Lowe’s inning saved the game, to be right there to hold that guy from scoring from first base and also the diving play to end the inning.’’
There indeed was a lot involved as the Rays won for just the second time in nine one-run affairs. “That game was fun,’’ Pagan said. “1-0 game, that’s old school baseball right there. Guys were grinding out at-bats, making big pitches.’’
Contact Marc Topkin at [email protected] Follow @TBTimes_Rays.