Joe Maddon has intentionally walked Texas' Josh Hamilton with the bases loaded and Detroit's Miguel Cabrera in three straight games with first base occupied to load the bases.
In the eighth inning of Sunday's matinee, the Rays manager was at it again.
Maddon put on Phillies pinch-hitter Jim Thome, not only loading the bases but moving the go-ahead run from first to second, as the Rays had RHP Burke Badenhop trying to protect a 3-2 lead. And it worked out perfectly, as LHP Jake McGee came on and retired Michael Martinez for the final out.
Maddon said it was an obvious - and not particularly risky - move, especially since Thome had beaten them the day before with his MLB record 13th walkoff homer: "He's been hot, you saw what he did (Saturday); he's got this flair for the dramatic, and I didn't want to see it again."
As accustomed as the Rays are to Maddon's unorthodox strategies, 1B Carlos Pena said there was still some surprise on the field.
"I was like, 'Oh my God,'" Pena said. "We have a sinkerball pitcher on the mound and we're gonna put the go-ahead run at second base. The first impression is, 'Does this make sense?' And then you're like, 'It makes sense because it doesn't.' It's awesome. And that's the way we do things here. We're not afraid to try different things."
PAIR OF ALEXS: LHP Alex Torres got a day of major-league pay, service time and meal money, plus two nights in a hotel, after being called up as an "extra man" under a new MLB rule for doubleheaders, then was returned to Triple-A Durham.
RHP Alex Cobb flew ahead to Kansas City to be rested for tonight's start, two days later than originally scheduled as the Rays adjusted their rotation after Friday's rainout.
Cobb, coming off a dazzling June 17 start in which he threw seven shutout innings, said the delay won't cause much disruption. He threw his usual post-start bullpen session Tuesday and did a light 15-pitch session Saturday, as, with the June 18 off day, he now will pitch on seven days' rest.
SPEED RACER: Rookie RHP Chris Archer was used as a pinch-runner again Sunday afternoon and would have had his first steal had he not overslid second and gotten tagged when he came off the base.
The Rays had a little fun with him for doing that, Maddon joking, "the speed causes him to slide right by the base." But they weren't amused by Archer - who admitted his form was rusty in his first slide since high school play in 2006 - going in head first, and he was apparently counseled heavily afterward. "Everybody pretty much suggested that," he said.
MEDICAL MATTERS: DH Luke Scott headed to Triple-A Durham for a brief rehab assignment today and Tuesday, then will be re-evaluated. Scott, out since June 8, said his back feels better but his swing wasn't ready and he wanted to face live pitching before returning. ... RHP Kyle Farnsworth (right elbow) was rained out of his rehab appearance for Class A Charlotte and is scheduled to make back-to-back appearances tonight and Tuesday, with the target of being activated for his season debut during the homestand that starts Thursday. ... RHP Jeremy Hellickson (shoulder fatigue) will throw a bullpen session in Kansas City and if all goes well, is set to be activated and start on Saturday.
MISCELLANY: The Rays tied a team record for walks in an inning by drawing five in the eighth of the nightcap. ... Slumping LF Desmond Jennings was out of the lineup for the first game as Maddon felt he had been expanding his strike zone and looked "just a little bit confused" at the plate. ... INF Drew Sutton, designated for assignment Friday, was claimed off waivers by the Pirates, from whom the Rays got him last month for undisclosed cash considerations.