Rays’ Jose Alvarado rebounds against Yankees after getting some Air

A little Michael Jordan inspiration helps the reliever bounce back from Friday’s walkoff loss and get the save in a 2-1 win in 11 innings, putting the Rays back atop the AL East.
Rays reliever Jose Alvarado, who blew the save in Friday's walkoff loss, celebrates with new catcher Erik Kratz after getting the extra-innings save against the Yankees on Saturday, May 18, 2019. [JIM McISAAC   |   Associated Press]
Rays reliever Jose Alvarado, who blew the save in Friday's walkoff loss, celebrates with new catcher Erik Kratz after getting the extra-innings save against the Yankees on Saturday, May 18, 2019. [JIM McISAAC | Associated Press]
Published May 18

NEW YORK — The Michael Jordan quote has been around for decades, surfacing in books, on websites and every type of media platform there is, social and otherwise:

I’ve missed over 9,000 shots in my career.

I’ve lost almost 300 games.

26 times I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed.

I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life.

And that is why I succeed.

Jose Alvarado has a screen shot of it in his phone, translated into Spanish, that he got a couple of years ago from a buddy, Mike, who came over with him from their Venezuelan homeland, helping him with Internet stuff and, apparently, inspiration.

“It’s one of those things I like to read and look at every so often on a regular basis,’’ Alvarado said, via translator Manny Navarro. “Just to refresh my brain, kind of get myself back in the motivation mode.’’

The reliever needed the emotional support Friday night, having blown a two-run lead in the ninth that led to his Rays suffering a frustrating walkoff loss that knocked them out of first place in the AL East. He shared the Jordan quote on his Instagram account, adding text thanking Jordan for the wisdom.

And then late Saturday afternoon, Alvarado showed that it wasn’t just words he took from the quote, but actions.

Summoned again, as manager Kevin Cash said he would be with the game on the line, Alvarado came in with a one-run lead in the 11th and sealed a 2-1 win over the Yankees that pushed the 27-16 Rays back into first place.

“I won’t say (Friday) was easy, but like I said (Saturday morning), today was a new day. It’s part of the game,’’ Alvarado said after the victory. “I just had to look at the situations, pay attention and just stay focused as long as I could. If an opportunity arose, I was going to be ready.’’

A solid six innings from a not-sharp Blake Snell, working with newcomer Erik Kratz as the ace’s fourth different catcher in five starts, kept the Rays close. Snell allowed just one run on a wild pitch as the Rays were shackled again by Masahiro Tanaka.

A Brandon Lowe homer in the seventh off Tommy Kahnle got them even. Lowe is tied with Yandy Diaz for the team lead at nine.

Two dominant relief innings from Emilio Pagan, with five strikeouts, kept the score tied.

A one-out homer in the 11th by leftfielder Austin Meadows, who earlier saved a run with a strong throw to nail Aaron Hicks at home, put the Rays ahead 2-1. “That was fun to be able to do that,’’ Meadows said.

Alvarado took it from there, though it wasn’t easy, like, say, a 20-foot jumper.

He allowed a leadoff single to Luke Voit, who homered off him to start Friday’s ninth-inning collapse.

Alvarado was overthrowing his cutter, which was obvious to Cash and coaches in the dugout. But showing some maturity beyond the 24 he turns Tuesday, Alvarado corrected himself and got Hicks swinging for the first out, pumping his 99 mph fastball in the process.

“He came back and made some pitches,’’ Cash said. “After the strikeout, I think he took a deep breath.’’

Three pitches later, after Alvarado got Gary Sanchez to ground into a game-ending double play, the Rays shared a collective sigh of relief.

“I was not too concerned about Jose or not too concerned about losing (Friday),” Cash said. “But to be able to bounce back, they showed each other something today.’’

Snell said he had no doubt that Alvarado would rebound the way he did.

“He’s nasty,’’ Snell said. “It’s going to happen. For him to come back, I wasn’t (surprised). He’s that good. It’ll happen, but he came back the way I thought he would have. And he did what he was supposed to do, like he always does.’’

Cash said he had a good feeling that Alvarado, as long as he felt fine after throwing 26 pitches Friday, would do well based on how he handled the failure, his first blown save of the season, though his third loss.

“I was actually really, really impressed with Jose after the game,’’ Cash said Saturday morning. “I know (pitching coach Kyle Snyder) checked in on him. But seeing him having dinner afterward, he seemed totally fine.

“That shows a sign of maturity, where he’s come from. I don’t know if he’s able to handle that last year, early on. But he’s come a long ways, he’s pitched in those situations.

“Hopefully we don’t have to use him today. But if we do, we’ve got all the confidence in the world he’s going to go out there and get it done for us.’’

Well, the Rays did have to use him.

And Alvarado did get it done.

Be like Mike?

“Some people want it to happen,’’ Jordan also is quoted as saying. “Some wish it would happen. Others make it happen.’’

Contact Marc Topkin at [email protected]. Follow @TBTimes_Rays.

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