Rays led to victory by speedy Mallex Smith in 11 innings

by Gary Shelton on April 9, 2017 · 0 comments

in general, Tampa Bay Rays

Mallex Smith's legs have made him a welcome addition to the Rays./STEVEN MUNCIE

Mallex Smith's legs have made him a welcome addition to the Rays./STEVEN MUNCIE

Sunday, 2 a.m.

The reason he is here is that he runs so fast.

Late in the evening, however, Mallex Smith could take his time coming home.

It was in the bottom of the 11th inning, and Smith could walk home after teammate Brad Miller had worked a bases-loaded walk following an unusual strategy from Toronto manager John Gibbons, who walked both Corey Dickerson and Kevin Kiermaier to get to Evan Longoria. Longoria struck out, but Miller followed with a 3-2 walk to bring home Smith.

Smith reached base five times on the night, getting two hits and three walks. None was bigger, however, than his leadoff double in the 11th. He was sacrificed to third, leading Gibbons to walk two to get to Longoria. The strategy seemed to work when Longoria struck out, but Miller ended the game with his walk, the Rays' first walkoff  since August 24 of last year.

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Archer threw his second straight impressive game./ANDREW J. KRAMER

Archer threw his second straight impressive game./ANDREW J. KRAMER

“That’s two in a row," Rays' manager Kevin Cash said. "Two games that we’ve won and had a tough time finding ways to win. We found a way to win tonight. That was an outstanding pitching performance by Arch and their guy. It was fun to watch early on if you’re a fan of good pitching. That was electric stuff. Location, everything was going on. Two good lineups. Just excited that we were able to pull it off.”

It's early, but Smith has been a welcome addition to the Rays' lineup.

“I call that a blessed day right there," Smith said. "You know that doesn’t happen every day so when you have days like this you gotta relish in them for the rest of the night. Just a good day progressively you know, taking steps forward and just building confidence in my own game. Building up some confidence in the staff here you know so that’s a very progressive day. It’s nice to have a day like today where I can showcase a lot of it. The only thing I didn’t do today was bunt. I know that’s the thing that everybody penciled me in as a bunter, but a great day.”

Smith has been more aggressive since the spring, Cash said.

“Mallex’s spring was put on pause for an injury early on so we didn’t get to see him and then I think throughout spring, I think he was trying to feel his way a little bit," Cash said. "You can tell since he’s been here that it’s been much more the aggressive style of play. We are going to ride with it as he’s feeling it. Tremendous at-bats at the plate laying off tough pitches and putting himself in hitter’s counts every single at-bat.

It was the second straight impressive pitching performance by Archer. He didn't get a decision, but he pitched 7 2/3 inning and gave up only two runs and five hits while striking out eight.

I just liked that I was able to compete and keep the team in the game," Archer said. "The opposing pitcher, he’s really good. He had a tremendous year last year and he picked up right where he left off last season. I knew our bullpen was taxed from the past few games so I was glad I was able to pitch deep and keep the game close.

“It shows a lot about our team. Last night we had to put up a ton of runs to win. Tonight we had to really pitch and play great defense and score timely runs so it shows the dynamic of our team.”

The Rays and Blue Jays finish their series today at 1:10 p.m. Jake Odorizzi will pitch against Marco Estrada.

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