The Rays were confident that if Ji-Man Choi were put in the right position he would deliver a memorable performance.
And so it was late Monday night, after clubbing a two-out, two-run ninth-inning walkoff homer to lead the Rays to a stirring 6-5 win over the Indians, that Choi put on the show with his theatrical dance around the bases.
"He's got some moves," SS Willy Adames said.
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The highlight was a demonstrative version of the dance Choi has been doing, improvised from a dance video OF Carlos Gomez found of a singer he calls El Sujeto.
"My teammates Adames and Gomez made up the dance moves and since we've been doing that, we just keep winning so I just keep doing it," Choi said through a Korean interpreter.
Actually, Choi has shown a lot of good moves of late. After a slow start following his July 11 promotion following his June acquisition from Milwaukee in trade for Brad Miller, Choi has been swinging a hot bat, hitting .329 with five homers over his last 23 games, reaching base in 20 straight starts.
"He's been outstanding," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "He's done a really nice job of kind of staying the course. He didn't get off to the hottest start for whatever reason. What these guys are doing here, they're creating an environment that kind of brings out the confidence in everybody. It's been special to sit and watch from afar that I think they feed off each other, they've done a good job of that."
Choi said it's been a team effort.
"The reason I'm (having) good at-bats lately is that I keep getting advice
from teammates and veteran players and the hitting coach, so that just
gets me a good swing at-bat and gets me a good result," he said.
The home run, off Cleveland closer Brad Hand, was the first Choi has hit off a lefty in the majors. In 24 previous left-on-left plate appearances, he was 1-for-21 with two walks and a hit by pitch. (His only hit was a single off Minnesota's Zach Duke in May.
Choi had plenty of reason to be happy after the game, and the entertaining trip around the bases.
"He doesn't say much in English, but I think his actions speak for
himself," said rookie 1B Jake Bauers, who two-run home rin s. He's infectious. Puts a smile on your face. Obviously everybody
is going to be smiling when you get hits like that."
* The Rays logged their ninth walkoff win, most in the AL and third in the majors. The Rays had only seven combined over the previous two seasons; the nine are their most since 13 in 2013.
* The Rays extended their home winning streak to a team-record 12, surpassing the 11 by the 2008 pennant-winning team. It is longest streak in the majors since the Indians won 13 in 2016.
* The Rays posted their 17th win in their last 20 games.
* The Rays at 79-64 moved to within 7 1/2 games of idle Oakland for the second wild card, and into a tie with Seattle.