Game-saving HR robbery in 9th and walk-off hit? Have a game, Siri

May 30th, 2024

ST. PETERSBURG -- Standing on the warning track, pounded his chest three times and flexed as he shouted toward the Rays’ dugout. Stopped in his tracks between first and second base, Zack Gelof slammed his helmet to the dirt. Just in front of the mound, all Pete Fairbanks could do was stand still with his right index finger pointed toward the top of the dome.

With the game tied and Gelof’s fly ball soaring toward the wall, Siri was on a collision course with left fielder Randy Arozarena, both of them hoping to make the play before Siri left his feet and robbed Gelof of a two-run homer in the top of the ninth. So who else would come to the plate to win the game in the bottom of the ninth? Siri, of course.

Amed Rosario smacked a leadoff double to right off reliever Michael Kelly, and Alex Jackson dropped a sacrifice bunt to move Rosario to third base. Facing a five-man infield, Siri lined a walk-off single to left field to give the Rays a 4-3 win over the A’s on Wednesday night at Tropicana Field.

“Unreal. I mean, it's like a storybook ending,” Rays starter Ryan Pepiot said. “He makes the game-saving catch and then goes out there and ends the game himself.”

After being shut out Tuesday night in one of their most frustrating losses of the season, the Rays bounced back Wednesday and won for just the second time in their past nine games. Siri’s first career walk-off plate appearance also improved the Rays’ record in one-run games to 10-4 on the year, the second-best mark in the Majors to the Mariners.

Afterward, the Rays couldn’t help but rave about Siri’s game-saving catch and game-winning hit.

It had been a back-and-forth game to that point, with the Rays and A’s trading runs in the fourth and sixth. Tampa Bay briefly claimed a lead in the seventh, only for Oakland to tie it again in the eighth. The A’s seemed like they might pull ahead in the ninth, when Miguel Andujar hit a leadoff double off Fairbanks followed by two hard-hit outs.

Up came Gelof, who launched a high fastball a projected 402 feet to left-center field with an exit velocity of 107.7 mph. According to Statcast, it would have been a home run in 24 out of 30 Major League ballparks. It looked like it was going to be one here, too.

Added Fairbanks: “I didn't think it was going that far, being honest. But I think I threw it right in this bat path, and he got it -- and he got it just not good enough,” Fairbanks said. “It was a good swing and a better play, and sometimes that's what wins out.”

“Incredible play by Siri,” added A’s manager Mark Kotsay.

So Siri glided back, put his right hand on the wall, called off Arozarena, leaped over his teammate (who was closest to the play but said he didn’t see it unfold) and reached his glove just over the wall to reel in the ball. The Rays’ dugout erupted, and so did Siri.

“I think it was pretty impressive,” Siri added through interpreter Manny Navarro. “I was very concentrated, never took my eye off the ball, and that's what I was doing.”

“Unbelievable. I've seen a lot of good catches, certainly in this ballpark, with being spoiled by [Kevin Kiermaier] for so many years,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “That was right up there at the top with them. … It was just a heck of a play and kind of fitting, the way baseball works out -- he comes up and gets the biggest hit.”

Siri said the play was better than the hit, but his walk-off single to left felt pretty good, too. How good? He thought the 97.9 mph exit velocity reading might have been a little low.

“That was about 3,000,” he said, smiling.

It was a feel-good moment for Siri, who saw his everyday role slightly diminished as he hit just .128 in his first 14 games this month. But few players possess his blend of dynamic, game-changing athleticism and infectious energy, and both were on full display with the game on the line Wednesday night.

“When you're accustomed to going out there and playing every day and you take a step back, you've got two options: You can kind of disconnect or stay locked in and be ready,” Cash said. “He chose to stay locked in and be ready and know that it was a matter of time [before] he can come up in a big way -- and no bigger way than he did today.”