Elmore's homer lands in hallowed grounds
ST. PETERSBURG -- Jake Elmore went to the shrine on Saturday afternoon and came away with a two-run homer that paved the way for a 4-1 Rays win over the Red Sox at Tropicana Field.
"He seems to get some really big hits at important times," Rays manager Kevin Cash said.
The often-mocked Tropicana Field does have some history, and a big piece of that sits in the left-field corner, which is affectionately known as "162 Landing."
The left-field wall is cut down to five feet at the 162 Landing. If a batter can line a ball down the line, it doesn't have to clear the 11-foot, five-inch height familiar to most of the outfield wall at Tropicana Field.
Evan Longoria's storied home run in the 12th inning of Game 162 of the 2011 season landed in the area. That walk-off homer propelled the Rays into the playoffs that season as the American League Wild Card, and knocked the Red Sox out.
On Saturday, Elmore hit a 1-2 slider from Wade Miley and lined it into the hallowed grounds for a two-run homer in the fifth.
"There's a runner on third with less than two outs," Elmore said. "You're trying to do the same thing every time. You're trying to get a ball up where you can drive it to the outfield. He'd been burying that slider all day.
"I wasn't necessarily looking for any particular pitch. Thankfully that slider happened to stay up on him a little bit, and so I was able to get it into the air and get it around that pole."
Elmore felt good about his chances of the ball falling in for a hit, but the home run brought a pleasant surprise.
"You know what? When I hit it, I didn't even think home run," Elmore said. "I just thought, 'Please stay fair,' because I knew it was at least getting down. Then I was like, 'Oh, man, that might get out of here.' ... I was just worried about it staying fair."
Elmore is hitting .245 in 34 games this season. His 15 RBIs are more than he had in his career prior to this year. According to Cash, Elmore has been invaluable given his versatility.
"I think the thing that goes unnoticed is we're asking him to play a different position [at first base]," Cash said. "He's doing that on a close to everyday basis. ... Jake's done a really nice job."