ST. PETERSBURG — Sometimes, a reputation is all you need.
The Mariners tried to play the percentages when they intentionally walked pinch-hitter Ji-Man Choi to load the bases with no outs in the ninth inning Wednesday, then employed a five-man infield with just two outfielders to try cut the potential winning run down at the plate.
The problem: The next hitter was Tommy Pham.
No one on the Rays has more walks than Pham, which means Seattle pitcher Matt Magill needed to throw strikes with the bases loaded.
Pham took the first two pitches, then fouled off the third to fall behind in the count 1-2. That should have put Magill in command, but he threw an 86 mph curveball in the dirt for a wild pitch and Willy Adames scored the winner in Tampa Bay’s 7-6 victory.
It was the second time this month that the Rays won on a walkoff wild pitch, after winning only once that way in the previous 21 years.
“You don’t want anyone else up to bat in that situation,’’ centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier said. “(Pham) has such a good eye and pitchers know that, but they also know if they throw in the zone, he can do damage.
“That guy didn’t want to give him anything in the zone and tried to make a good pitch that Tommy would chase, and it went in the dirt.’’
Pham declined to comment after the game.
The Rays have reached new heights, or height.
We give you right-handed pitcher Aaron Slegers, the latest man through the revolving door who arrived from Triple-A Durham on Wednesday morning.
At 6 feet, 10 inches, Slegers becomes the tallest player in Rays history, passing pitchers Jeff Niemann and Mark Hendrickson, who are both 6-9.
"It’s an honor,” Slegers said with a grin.
Actually, it’s a job, and it might not be for long. Siegers might be a Ray for only a few days. A starter and reliever in Durham, where he went 4-7 with a 5.49 ERA, he was called up to plug in more gaps in the Rays bullpen.
One of the first things Slegers did in the clubhouse was take a picture of his locker with his name on it and send it to his parents in Arizona.
“It’s always a thrill, especially not being on the (40-man) roster in Triple A,” he said. “It’s not like I have a zero ERA in Durham. I wasn’t lighting the world on fire, but I was doing my job. I’m glad to be here.”
Slegers spent parts of 2017 and 2018 with the Twins. He was claimed off waivers by the Pirates in January, but Pittsburgh designated him for assignment on opening day before he was traded to the Rays on March 30 and optioned.
“I’m here for today,” Siegers said. “I’m here to help the team however I can.”
Homecoming, sort of
Former Rays outfield prospect Jake Fraley made his major-league debut for the Mariners in Wednesday’s game. He had family and friends in town as he played centerfield and batted eighth.
Fraley, 24, was acquired by the Mariners in November from Tampa Bay, along with outfielder Mallex Smith, in exchange for catcher Mike Zunino, outfielder Guillermo Heredia and pitcher Michael Plassmeyer. Fraley was originally drafted out of LSU by the Rays in the second round of the 2018 draft.
“It’s a pretty cool experience,” Fraley said. “I was actually just talking with (Mariners outfielder) Timmy (Lopes) about it yesterday. I remember just a couple years ago, behind one of those windows up there, I was signing my contract for the Rays, and now being back here.”
Brandon Lowe’s return appears further delayed. The infielder was removed from his rehab game at Triple-A Durham with a left quadriceps strain, a separate, unrelated injury to the bruised right leg that has sidelined him since early July. He will return to St. Petersburg to be evaluated. … Infielder Joey Wendle felt discomfort in his right wrist during Tuesday’s rehab game at Durham and took Wednesday off to see if that might help, but he likely will have to play through it. “It’s something that’s just not going to go away” without significant rest, said manager Kevin Cash. … Outfielder Avisail Garcia is set to test his strained oblique in a rehab game Thursday for Durham and if all goes well, meet the team in Baltimore to be activated Saturday. … Right-hander Yonny Chirinos, out since Aug. 4 with middle finger inflammation, was cleared to resume activities and after a few days of strengthening exercises, start playing catch over the weekend. He’s targeted for a September return. … Starter Tyler Glasnow (forearm strain) threw his second bullpen session and was fist-bumping all nearby when done; the right-hander is slated for another bullpen session, a live batting practice and his first rehab game on or around Aug. 30.
The Rays are keeping their weekend pitching plans fluid, with right-hander Trevor Richards and left-hander Jalen Beeks lined up to work bulk innings in two of the games and right-hander Austin Pruitt potentially being called up to handle the third.