Avisail Garcia’s muscle and hustle lead Rays past Marlins 4-0

Garcia hits 471-foot homer that is longest by a visitor at Marlins Park; Charlie Morton lends a hand with six strong innings.
Avisail Garcia is congratulated by teammates after his long homer in the second inning. [DAVID SANTIAGO | Miami Herald via AP]
Avisail Garcia is congratulated by teammates after his long homer in the second inning. [DAVID SANTIAGO | Miami Herald via AP]
Published May 14

MIAMI – Among the things Avisail Garcia did to help the Rays to a 4-0 win over the cross-state Marlins on Tuesday, two were especially worth noting.

One was rather obvious, the massive 471-foot home run he hit that carried over the centerfield fence and the grassed-over batter’s eye wall behind it, the longest hit by a visitor in the eight-season history of the stadium.

The other not so much, yet in a way, as impressive, the 27-year-old eight-year veteran coming off knee surgery busting it to first base with two outs in the ninth to beat out an infield hit that scored the final run.

Garcia’s muscle and hustle, combined with Charlie Morton’s six strong innings – with no walks – was enough for the Rays (25-15) to turn a day that started for some with an early wakeup call for the rare day of game flight into a night that ended with a clubhouse celebration.

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“Every time we come to the ballpark, we have a chance to win,’’ Garcia said. “Everyone is focused. Everyone wants to play hard.’’

Garcia showed that, starting with his second inning blast off Miami starter Caleb Smith, which put him in the company of former Marlins, and current Yankees, slugger Giancarlo Stanton.

It surpassed 459 foot shots by Juan Francisco (for Atlanta in 2013) and Hunter Pence (for San Francisco in 2013) as the longest by a visitor. And it is the longest by a Ray at least in the 2015-launched StatCast era, better than 464-foot blasts by C.J. Cron on Aug. 18, 2018, and J.P. Arencibia on Sept. 7, 2015. It was the second longest of Garcia’s career, behind a 481-footer in Toronto last year.

“I was shocked how far that ball went,’’ Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “I know they had a guy here for many years in Stanton that hit balls a long way, but that’s got to be up there with some of his majestic shots. It just kept going up. And to get it over the batter’s eye was pretty impressive.”

Garcia said he even surprised himself with his seventh homer of the season.

“I didn’t expect to hit a ball like that,’’ he said. “I know I hit it good. I know it was up. But not that far.’’

Morton made the one run stand up until the Rays added on in the sixth, on a Garcia single.

Using an effective sinker and a cutter that had more than usual movement, he worked relatively quickly through the Miami lineup, allowing only three hits and striking out five. Relievers Emilio Pagan, Diego Castillo and Chaz Roe followed as the Rays posted their fourth shutout of the season in beating the 10-win Marlins.

The no walks was big, only because Morton had been frustrated with allowing 21 over his first eight starts, including four in his last one.

He said part of his success Tuesday was due to the Marlins hitters putting a lot of balls in play and on the ground, being “aggressive maybe on pitches that weren’t hitters’ pitches.’’

But he also acknowledged what he did better, finding the right balance in being aggressive and executing, and in having his delivery timed up from the start of each inning.

“For the most part I’ve been around the plate,’’ he said. “I don’t feel I’ve thrown a ton of balls. I’m not having huge misses. Tonight I think the misses were limited more so than before.’’

A bases loaded walk to Kevin Kiermaier in the eighth by ex-Ray Sergio Romo (who walked a career-high four) made it 3-0, and then Garcia made his other big contribution before a gathering of 6,306 at Marlins Park.

With the bases loaded and two outs in the ninth he tapped a slow grounder toward third, and hustled all out to beat the throw, allowing the fourth run to score.

“I don’t want to give up anything,’’ he said. “Sometimes you hit the ball good and it’s out. Sometimes you hit a ball like that. I’m a guy that hustles every single day. … It’s important for me and for everybody to run hard every single day.’’

Cash said he wasn’t surprised by that Garcia move.

"That’s the tone that’s kind of set throughout, credit all of them, they all get down the line good,'' Cash said. "It gives you a pretty easy conversation when someone doesn’t do it: “If Avisail is going to do it, we can all do it.” ”

And overall, Cash certainly likes what he sees from the veteran outfielder.

“Look, we’ve talked about it a lot. A healthy Avi Garcia can beat you in many ways,’’ he said. “I think last year he was battling injuries, but now he’s 100 percent healthy. He hits the infield single to separate the game a little more. … He really gets down the line. He really covers a lot of balls in the gaps with his speed. ''

Due to weather-related and maintenance issues with their chartered Delta plane on Monday night in Tampa, the Rays made the unusual decision to fly down Tuesday morning, with a 9 a.m. departure (and an 8 a.m. bus from the Trop).

Traveling on the day of a game is common in the minor leagues and for individual players who are called up, but only in extraordinary circumstances for major-league teams. For Morton, who was also battling a cold, that meant a 5:45 a.m. wakeup at his Bradenton-area home on a game day. (Garcia has a home in south Florida, so he came down Sunday night and made a short drive to the stadium Tuesday afternoon.)

But given that it was such a short flight and the players would be in their hotel rooms by 11 a.m. if they wanted to catch up on rest, travel and logistics director Chris Westmoreland felt it was a better option than potentially being delayed for an extended period in Tampa on Monday, and Cash agreed.

Cash said the change in routine, even with the early wake-up, should not have had any impact on how the players performed, and though some said it was weird, it didn’t seem to.

"No effect,'' he said. "No excuse.''

None noted.

Contact Marc Topkin at mtopkin@tampabay.com. Follow @TBTimes_Rays.



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