ST. PETERSBURG - The next time Willy Adames sees Charlie Montoyo, the new Blue Jays manager after four years as a Rays coach, he's going to thank him.
It was Montoyo’s decision to intentionally walk Kevin Kiermaier to load the bases with one out in the 11th inning Wednesday, and bring Adames, who’d had a rough night thus far with an 0-for-4 and a questionable play in the eighth that led to the tying run, to the plate.
"It makes me excited,'' Adames said. "I wanted that at-bat, and they gave it to me. I'm glad I was there in that opportunity.''
The Jays sent up their defense to force Adames’ hand, bringing in Brandon Drury from the outfield to set up a five-man infield, and pinching in the remaining two outfielders.
Adames knew what he had to do.
"I was just trying to put up a good at-bat,'' Adames said, "trying to get a good pitch up to hit it to the outfield.''
Jays pitcher Justin Shafer, of course, was trying to get Adames to hit the ball on the ground, starting him with two sliders, Adames showing enough discipline, especially for a young and inconsistent player, to not bite.
He then took a low fastball that was a borderline strike, setting a 2-1 count and setting himself up for success.
"The reason he got to that pitch was how he laid off some tough pitches the first three,'' manager Kevin Cash said. "Really impressed he laid off the two sliders. That’s a big moment for Willy and a big moment for us. For him to up there in that at-bat and not put himself in a hole right out of the gate. It’s why he was able to get a pitch he could handle and get it out deep to center.''
With speedy Andrew Velazquez pinch-running for Ji-Man Choi once he got to third, Adames figured he wouldn’t have to hit it too far, but he didn’t want to take any chances, and hit it over everyone’s head to deep center.
"I was trying to hit it good put it deep so there was no doubt,'' he said.
Adames had plenty of motivation even before Montoyo made the move, hitless in four at-bats on the night and “pretty pissed off” he was unable to make a play on the Lourdes Gurriel Jr. ground ball single that led off the eighth to start Jose Alvarado’s rough outing and led to the tying run at 3-3,
"It feels amazing,'' Adames said. "After the game I was having it's a little tough. That's gonna happen. You've got to stay mentally strong.''
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That was the start of the celebration, which included an epic bat toss — pretty much straight up — by Adames.
Said Cash: "Just a great at-bat.''