ST. PETERSBURG -- With the Rays down 5-4 in the ninth inning, Avisaíl García stepped up to the plate and hit a game-tying home run off Orioles reliever Mychal Givens that literally never came down.
While Garcia’s home run wasn’t enough to help the Rays win Thursday, as the Orioles won the series finale 6-5 in extra innings, the right-hander made Tropicana Field history by hitting the ball into the D-ring of the catwalk in center field.
Before Thursday’s game, only five players have had a fair ball hit the catwalk and never come down in the history of Tropicana Field: Tampa Bay’s John Jaso on Sept. 17, 2015 (C-ring); Boston’s David Ortiz on Sept. 17, 2008 (D-ring); Boston’s Jason Bay on Sept. 15, 2008 (C-ring); Carlos Pena on May 26, 2008 (B-ring); and Jose Canseco on May 2, 1999 (B-ring).
The home run traveled 447 feet, according to Statcast, but some of his teammates believe the ball traveled even further.
“Oh that’s a lie,” said Tommy Pham, when told the official distance. “I have it 50 feet further. My initial reaction was like, ‘Damn’ ... I thought that ball was probably like 500 feet.”
Rays manager Kevin Cash said he wasn’t really sure where the ball landed, but he knew Garcia had hit a long home run the moment it hit the bat.
“As soon as it hit the bat I knew it was gone so we started high fiving,” Cash said. “That was a good one, a big one.”
Garcia has played a key role in the early success the Rays are having. The right-hander is hitting .311 with three home runs this season and has given Tampa Bay a big presence in the middle of the lineup.
Thursday’s home run was the third time Garcia has hit a game-tying homer in the ninth inning or later. He did it on Sept. 24, 2014 against the Yankees and July 3, 2018 against Cincinnati.
“We’re always confident when he’s at the plate,” Cash said. “That was a pretty big hit because we’ve seen Givens many, many years now, and he’s pretty good. He’s really, really good. He stayed in there and got a pitch and hit it like a left-hander out to right-center.”
Garcia kept the focus on the fact that the Rays dropped the finale to the Orioles, but even he couldn’t help to crack a smile when asked about the impressive home run.
“You hit the ball so good that you don’t feel anything,” Garcia said, about what he felt on the homer. “But it’s good to hit a home run, especially in that situation. But we lost the game. So tomorrow we have another game. Let’s see what happens tomorrow.”
Rays pitching struggles
Hunter Wood got the start for the Rays and pitched well in his two innings of work. Since being called up from Triple-A Durham, he has yet to allow a run in six innings. While Wood pitched well, Jalen Beeks, who has been a solid left-handed option, gave up some hard contact against the Orioles. Beeks allowed three runs on six hits in his three innings of work.
“The only thing that was wrong was that [Beeks] couldn’t get the ball out of the zone,” Cash said. “I think I looked up there and he had 27 pitches and 24 of them were strikes. He was attacking, which we ask him to do that. You’re going to take your chances when you continue to pound the strike zone. It was one of those days where they saw him and they got some hits.”
With the three consecutive opener days and the extra inning game on Thursday, there’s a good chance that the Rays make a roster move before Friday’s game against the Red Sox in order to get another fresh arm in the bullpen.
“We’re going to have some conversations here shortly to talk through some things,” Cash said. “Just have to check with [pitching coach Kyle Snyder] and check with the guys.”