SAN DIEGO — It was not till Manuel Margot’s ft left the bottom that it occurred to him that he might fall. The Rays proper fielder had performed greater than three seasons in Petco Park as a Padre, however he performed each inning of his tenure right here in middle. He was not totally certain of the contours of the appropriate discipline wall. He was not totally certain what lay on the opposite facet of it. He was solely certain that he needed to catch the fly ball slicing towards him.
There have been males on second and third with two outs and the highest of the Astros’ order due up within the second inning when George Springer lofted a sinker down the third-base line. Margot, positioned straight-up in Petco’s beneficiant proper discipline, darted 102 ft to his left, utilizing his glove to shade his eyes from the solar, and, simply as he leaned over the fence, snared the baseball. That was when he realized he couldn’t cease leaning. He was dismayed to be taught that whereas the wall rises maybe three ft from the sphere, the walkway on the opposite facet is extra like six ft beneath it. He braced himself together with his left hand. He shot his proper into the air. Umpire Manny González made the out signal.
When it was over and the Rays had overwhelmed the Astros 4–2 to take a 2–Zero lead within the American League Championship Collection, Margot was requested to mirror on what is going to certainly be the seize of the playoffs. Which did he desire, the defensive gem or the three-run homer he had hit an inning earlier to provide Tampa Bay a lead it will not relinquish?
“Undoubtedly the house run,” he stated, laughing, via interpreter Manny Navarro. “The house run didn’t harm.”
That was greater than Margot acknowledged on the time. His pal and roommate, shortstop Willy Adames, sprinted to proper discipline to verify on him. “I’m good, I’m good!” Margot insisted. Adames determined to not counter that Margot was bleeding from a minimize on his leg.
“I hope they make a t-shirt of that,” Adames stated afterward. “That might be type of dope.”
The Rays have their decide of designs. 4 batters earlier than Margot’s catch, Adames flung himself to his left to catch, backhanded, a liner off the bat of Carlos Correa for the primary out. Within the outfield, Margot pantomimed kowtowing in appreciation. An inning later, Adames dove to his left, backhanded one other ball and fired to first baseman Ji-Man Choi, who did a cut up to corral the throw. Within the fifth, as shadows encroached on the infield, third baseman Joey Wendle launched himself to his left and made the lengthy throw to Choi, who did one other cut up. They repeated the play within the eighth. In the long run, the Astros hit 16 balls more durable than 95 mph. The Rays turned 11 of them into outs.
The slick glovework helps to camouflage an offense that struggles to string hits collectively. It additionally makes pitchers’ lives simpler. Tampa Bay starter Charlie Morton, who threw 5 scoreless innings and threw 34% sinkers, designed to induce floor balls, known as it a “large luxurious” to play earlier than such an hermetic protection. “It permits you a ton of freedom to only pitch your recreation with some semblance of reckless abandon,” he stated.
Houston offered a foil. Righty Lance McCullers “outpitche[d] me by a mile,” stated Morton, however he watched again and again as his protection let him down. Twice second baseman José Altuve and first baseman Yuli Gurriel failed to show a routine grounder into an out. The primary time, within the first inning, got here with two on and two out. The subsequent batter, Margot, swatted a knuckle curve past the middle discipline wall.
The second miscue, an unsightly throw from the shift within the third, didn’t find yourself costing them. And Altuve efficiently fielded a grounder to finish the body. However he seemed so despondent as he trudged off the sphere that Astros supervisor Dusty Baker pulled him in for a hug as he reached the dugout stairs. Altuve and Correa, the shortstop, conferred, and the following time Houston shifted, they switched positions to provide Correa the more durable task.
“How do you win shut ballgames?” stated Tampa Bay supervisor Kevin Money afterward. “You gotta make performs.”
The Rays have been outhit 19–10 within the sequence up to now. However they’ve made all of the performs, and lead it 2–0.