Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon
news

MLB News

Anatomy of the Rays' improbable walk-off

@juanctoribio
July 26, 2020

ST. PETERSBURG -- When Joey Wendle walked up to the plate with two outs, nobody on and the Rays down, 4-2, in the ninth inning, Tampa Bay’s win expectancy was 1.5 percent according to Fangraphs. Resiliency was the theme for the Rays last season and that seems to have carried

ST. PETERSBURG -- When Joey Wendle walked up to the plate with two outs, nobody on and the Rays down, 4-2, in the ninth inning, Tampa Bay’s win expectancy was 1.5 percent according to Fangraphs.

Resiliency was the theme for the Rays last season and that seems to have carried over into 2020 as Tampa Bay completed an improbable comeback on Sunday to beat the Blue Jays, 6-5, in 10 innings at Tropicana Field.

“It’s a new year, but the same mindset,” said Kevin Kiermaier, who delivered the walk-off, two-run triple in the 10th. “We had so many great come-from-behind wins last year, and the best teams in baseball do that year in, year out. You can never count those teams out.”

Thompson's MLB debut a special family affair

Though it was Kiermaier who recorded his second career walk-off hit on Sunday, that opportunity doesn’t present itself without the craziness that happened in the ninth inning. Let’s take a closer look at the events surrounding the Rays’ comeback.

Wendle sees double
Win expectancy: 4.5 percent
With the Rays down to their final out, manager Kevin Cash opted to pinch-hit Wendle for Michael Perez. That decision immediately paid off as Wendle lined a double down the right-field line.

“Joey is ready to play, whether he’s in the starting lineup or sits for three hours,” Cash said. “He’s just a great guy to have on your team. Nice for him to get it started for us.”

Wendle’s double gave the Rays some life, bumping up the win expectancy ever so slightly to 4.5 percent, but Tampa Bay needed a lot more things to go its way. Fortunately, that’s exactly what happened.

Now walk it out
Win expectancy: 27.5 percent
Willy Adames kept the game alive with one of the many good at-bats by Rays hitters in the ninth. Adames didn’t expand out of the zone against Giles, forcing the Blue Jays' closer to walk him on a 3-2 fastball.

“It was a really impressive at-bat,” Cash said. “Giles is as tough as anybody in the American League as far as bullpens go. Willy didn’t expand with him, made him work and Willy was able to draw the walk.”

Yoshi Tsutsugo then pushed the win expectancy to 17.7 percent with a walk of his own against Giles to load the bases with two outs. Ji-Man Choi, a left-hander who homered earlier in the game during just his second career at-bat from the right side of the plate, also drew a walk to force in a run and bring the Rays to within one run.

Lowe ties it with a drive and a dive
Win expectancy: 66 percent
With the game on the line, Brandon Lowe hit a grounder past Blue Jays first baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Because he was playing deep in the hole, Cavan Biggio was able to pick it up, but reliever Brian Moran was a step slow to cover first, allowing Lowe to beat the throw with a head-first slide. Wendle scored the game-tying run on the play.

You know what they say: Don’t slide into first unless it works.

On Sunday, it did.

“Anyone can step up at any moment, that’s the cool part,” said Rays starter Blake Snell, who tossed two scoreless innings on Sunday. “You could see guys on the field that believed we were going to win. I think the coolest part about this team is that we believe we’re going to win every game, and that’s a big reason as to why we’re so good, and I think it’s going to help us throughout this whole [57] games we have left.”

And wrap it with a bow
After tying the game with the unlikely ninth-inning rally, the Rays entered the bottom of the 10th trailing, 5-4, after the Blue Jays took advantage of the new extra-inning rule that places a runner at second base to start each frame.

José Martínez led off the 10th with an impressive nine-pitch walk against Toronto’s Shun Yamaguchi, who was making his big league debut. Following the walk, Kiermaier laced a triple into the right-field corner, allowing Kevan Smith to score from second and Martínez to score from first.

“I’ve already drank three bottles of water,” Martínez joked afterward, of the long sprint. “I’m OK, I’m OK.”

Juan Toribio covers the Rays for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @juanctoribio.