ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays ended up winning by six runs, but there's little doubt what was the pivotal moment in their 8-2 victory over the Rangers on Saturday night.The Rays were holding a 2-1 lead when a tremendous relay effort, a close play at the plate and an overturned
ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays ended up winning by six runs, but there's little doubt what was the pivotal moment in their 8-2 victory over the Rangers on Saturday night.
The Rays were holding a 2-1 lead when a tremendous relay effort, a close play at the plate and an overturned call proved huge in allowing them to prevail over the Rangers at Tropicana Field.
A little luck also helped on this otherwise fundamentally flawless defensive teamwork by the Rays.
"I think so. … I think that one changes the complexion of the game," Rangers manager Jeff Banister said.
The Rangers had Adrián Beltré on first base with two outs and Jonathan Lucroy at the plate. Rays starter Jake Odorizzi had been pitching well to that point, but, with Beltre breaking on the pitch, Lucroy lined one into the right-center-field gap.
Rays right fielder Steven Souza Jr. tried to make a diving catch and missed. But he was able to tip the ball directly toward center fielder Mikie Mahtook, who was running over to back up the play.
"If Souza doesn't dive and tip it, it doesn't go to Mikie," Odorizzi said.
That put Mahtook in perfect position to field the ball and get it into second baseman Tim Beckham. But Rangers third-base coach Spike Owen was still sending Beltre home.
"With two outs and a one-run game, you roll the dice," Owen said.
Beckham made a strong throw, but Beltre slid in and was ruled safe by home-plate umpire Gary Cederstrom. The Rays immediately challenged the call, and replay showed conclusively that catcher Luke Maile had the tag on Beltre before he touched home plate.
"Tremendous play," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "We messed a play up in the outfield last night. I think Souza going after the ball, that was an awesome effort. Mikie getting the ball in quick, and then Beck's relay throw right on the money. That play couldn't have worked out any better."
That's how you draw it up, except for the fortunate deflection from one outfielder to another.
"They made a tremendous relay," Banister said. "Beckham made a great throw. It was a bang-bang play. If the throw is off line or Beckham hesitates, it's a different outcome."
Then the game is tied and the Rangers are still at the plate.
"I think it was just a good play all around," Odorizzi said. "Everybody did their job on that play and gave 100 percent. Mikie made a good throw to Beck, and Beck put it right on the money. Luke did a nice job of putting a tag on it, too. It was a nice way to end a tough outing like that."
The Rays turned it over to the bullpen after the sixth inning and pulled away late. But everything could have played out differently if the Rangers had been able to tie it on Lucroy's double.
T.R. Sullivan has covered the Rangers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2006. Follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast.