Lobaton's walk-off blast an historic one for Rays
ST. PETERSBURG -- Not only did Jose Lobaton become the first Rays player to homer into the Rays Touch Tank -- and the third player overall since it was installed in 2006 -- his home run deflected off the glove of a fan wearing a No. 29 Dan Johnson jersey.
Of course, Johnson is well remembered in Rays lore for the big home run he hit against the Red Sox at Fenway Park in 2008 and for the game-tying home run he hit in Game 162 of the 2011 season.
Lobaton's home run was the 46th walk-off home run in postseason history and first for the Rays. Before Lobaton, only two others hit a walk-off homer to avoid being swept in a postseason series, and on both occasions, that team came back to win the series.
Boston's Trot Nixon turned the trick in Game 3 of the ALDS against Oakland and Boston's David Ortiz did so in Game 4 of the ALCS against the New York Yankees. In both cases, the Red Sox won out to win the series.
Lobaton smiled when asked if he'd seen the swing that produced the magic Monday night.
"Yes, like about 20 times," Lobaton said. "I just, I know I swung at the ball pretty good. So I want to put it in my mind and maybe do the same thing today. Maybe not a homer, but maybe something good."
Lobaton did not have a good Spring Training while Chris Gimenez did, but Gimenez had options and Lobaton did not. That led to the thinking that Lobaton made the team because the Rays wanted to have more depth at catcher. They could have lost Lobaton if he had been designated for assignment, but they did not have to worry about losing Gimenez, whom they were able to option to Triple-A Durham.
Rays manager Joe Maddon was reminded about Lobaton becoming the team's second catcher despite having a poor Spring Training.
"He's starting to demonstrate his skill set here that he demonstrated in the Minor Leagues," Maddon said. "As an example, hitting the ball hard. You can't hit a ball much harder than the one he did last night. That's the first one we've hit there.
"Sincerely, I'm looking down, I don't even hear the swing, but I hear the noise. I look up and I see it, and I'm like, 'That's the wrong part of the ballpark.' Then I see that it's got enough. You've seen [Johnson's] home run, you've seen [Evan Longoria's] home run. That's an unlikely moment right there."
Lobaton had two walk-off hits in the 2013 season, and both came in the same series when his parents, Tomas and Maria, were visiting the United States to see him play for the first time. Lobaton said they were not able to be at Tropicana Field on Monday night, but they did watch in Venezuela.
"They were watching the game, and in the eighth or ninth inning, they [began to show] a different game," Lobaton said. "They got the Rays and Boston game. I don't know why they changed the game for Dodgers-Braves. My mom started trying to find our game again and they got it in time to see the walk-off."