Adames motivated by critical DM during delay

August 23rd, 2019

BALTIMORE -- As the clock neared 8:45 p.m. ET on Thursday and the Rays' 5-2 victory over the Orioles entered a two-hour, 16-minute rain delay, Willy Adames sulked his way back into the visiting clubhouse at Oriole Park, hoping to forget his performance to that point. True, he had homered just minutes before to tie the game, but on his mind were his two errors on Tampa Bay's first two defensive plays that allowed Baltimore to take an early two-run lead.

It didn’t help that Adames checked his phone upon arriving at his locker.

“I got a DM on social media,” Adames recalled.

The message?

“The game just [started] five minutes ago, and you already got two errors. You suck.”

When play resumed after the delay, Adames felt new life. How did that manifest itself? He followed up his homer with a go-ahead two-run single in the ensuing inning to propel the Rays to a much-needed victory at the onset of a seven-game road trip.

“I read it and I was laughing. That motivates me,” a relieved Adames said. “That’s not the best way to start the game. I put the team in a bad situation there, but I am glad that the guys stayed with a positive energy and we battled and got the win.”

More important than Adames’ roller-coaster night, and the win itself, was the context it comes in. With Cleveland dropping a third straight game and Oakland winning its third in a row, the water-logged victory helped the Rays remain tied with the A's for the two American League Wild Card spots. They each moved a half-game ahead of the Tribe in the race.

“Really huge,” Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash said of the win. “Look, we sat for two hours and [16] minutes, but the guys stayed locked in enough to get out there.”

The lows of Adames’ night are boiled down into two plays. The first, a grounder to short on the second pitch from starter Ryan Yarbrough, resulted in a botched throw by Adames that allowed Hanser Alberto to reach safely. The next one was a little trickier. After Trey Mancini ripped a double down the left-field line, Adames took the relay and attempted to throw out Alberto at the plate, only to have his toss short-hop catcher Travis d'Arnaud and skip out of play. That allowed Mancini to come in to score.

Then came Adames' homer in the fifth, his 16th of the year and 13th on the road. Then came the rain delay.

“After the rain delay, it was like, ‘I think I have a fresh shot,’” Adames said. “And I was like, ‘This is a new game, I have to do something good now.’”

So he did, in the form of a two-run single to score Jesus Aguilar and Matt Duffy. More than enough to support a bullpen that pitched 4 2/3 scoreless innings.

“It makes me feel good that I did something to help the team to get that win,” Adames said.

But there’s work to be done for Adames. While the difference between his defensive and offensive WAR numbers is negligible, per Baseball Reference, his 17 errors are tied for fifth most in the Majors and third most among shortstops.

“You’re not going to play shortstop at this level and not have defensive hiccups at times,” Cash said. “It is encouraging that he can come back and impact the game in such an encouraging way.”

Adames’ early missteps, for their part, tell only part of the story for Yarbrough’s night. After the pair of errors allowed two runs to score -- one earned, one unearned -- the breakout lefty bounced back to retire 13 of the next 15 batters he faced. The delay ended his night prematurely as he continues to morph himself from a pitcher who bounced back and forth between Triple-A and the Majors into one of the most dependable options in a rotation ravished by injuries.