Rays come from behind on Smith’s legs

by Gary Shelton on June 12, 2017 · 2 comments

in general, Tampa Bay Rays

Rasmus tied things with a homer in the sixth./CARMEN MANDATO

Rasmus tied things with a homer in the sixth./CARMEN MANDATO

Monday, 2 a.m.

Is it too soon to proclaim the Tampa Bays to be Mallex Smith's team?

Probably. After all, Smith just got back. He's just 24 years old. And, to give him credit, he calls himself “just a piece” of the Rays' puzzle.

But so far, man, has he been something to watch.

Smith, a recent call-up by the Rays, continued his blistering play Sunday afternoon, getting three hits and scoring two runs as Tampa Bay came from behind to beat the A's, 5-4. The Rays trailed 3-0, but pulled out their third win in four games against Oakland.

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Smith retreats to third after forcing an error on a bunt./CARMEN MANDATO

Smith retreats to third after forcing an error on a bunt./CARMEN MANDATO

The Rays finished their homestead at 5-2. It was their fourth winning homestand of the season, compared with only two all of last season. The Rays are 7-1-1 in their last nine series.

Smith was eight-for-14 against the A's, helping to ease the absence of missing starter Kevin Kiermaier.He continued to play like a cartoon rabbit, all bounce and blur, helping to lead the Rays to another comeback.

Beckham is caught between first and second for Rays./CARMEN MANDATO

Beckham is caught between first and second for Rays./CARMEN MANDATO

“I was struggling on defense,” Smith said. “I knew I had to help my team some kind of way. I put together some good at bats.”

The best of those may have come in the seventh, when Smith bunted for a hit. Daniel Coulombe of the A's threw the ball into right field, allowing Smith to go as far as third, where he scored the game-winning run on a fly by Corey Dickerson.

“Get a pitch over the plate, put it in the air," Dickerson said of his approach." I really just tried to relax that at bat. Be more smooth and quiet and try to see the ball a lot better and luckily I saw the pitch right out of his hand and put a good swing on it.”

Dickerson also had an RBI double in the fifth inning.

“Well, I felt like I was seeing it well early on and I felt like the guys were putting decent swings on it," Dickerson said. "We just wasn’t putting together back- to-back hits. That inning, I feel like whenever the back of the order got a hit, it just got something going. It got some energy in

Archer gave up four runs, but he struck out eight batters./CARMEN MANDATO

Archer gave up four runs, but he struck out eight batters./CARMEN MANDATO

the dugout and we just kept going with the consistent at bats.”

The addition of Smith has reminded most Rays' fans the importance of speed. If Smith can continue to hit, his walks translate into doubles. It's not far-fetched for him to score on one hit behind him.

Over the years, baseball fell in love with puffed-up power hitters and how far they could hit the ball, sometimes with illegal steroids coursing their veins. The big money went to the big sluggers, and the fast, athletic outfielders were surpassed. But now that steroids are under control -- mostly -- the athletes can return.

The Rays should have known it all along. B.J. (Melvin) Upton wasn't the consistent performer the team needed, and he had awful instincts on base, but when he teamed with Carl Crawford, the Rays were at their best.

Perhaps, with Smith, it's time to try it again.

Colome struggled, but he got his 18th save./CARMEN MANDATO

Colome struggled, but he got his 18th save./CARMEN MANDATO

In all sports, speed is the ultimate applier of pressure. It makes the field -- or the base paths, or the ice -- smaller. The players who play on fast-forward can make a mistake look silly.

Smith isn't Kiermaier in the field -- who is? -- but again, his speed can cut off a lot of doubles. Oh, he is certain to fall into some slumps along the line, but so far, he's been a difference-maker on the base paths.

“If we can keep it within striking distance, we know we're capable of putting together a big inning,” said Rays' manager Kevin Cash.

"Mallex Smith, another outstanding game on his part. Colby Rasmus, big home run and Dickey with the sac fly. Lot of people played some key roles. The bullpen, everyone came in and did their jobs. Good to have Jumbo back and then have to say something about Tim Beckham, LoMo and Mallex Smith for their overall performance the last two days. We’ve asked a lot of them, especially, and they have grinded through it and really, really performed well.”

An inning before Smith scored the winning run, Colby Rasmus had homered to tie the game at 4. Seven of Rasmus' nine homers have come in the sixth inning or later.

Chase Whitley got the victory in relief./CARMEN MANDATO

Chase Whitley got the victory in relief./CARMEN MANDATO

But the big Rays inning was the fifth, when the Rays had five straight hits (four doubles) to tie the game at 3.

Reliever Alex Colome got his 18th save, but not before he loaded the bases with two out. The A's failed to score on a hit to left by Chad Pinder. Colome then went 2-0 to Jed Lawrie, but came back and got him to foul out to Evan Longoria. Colome then struck out Khris Davis to end the game.

“Not at one point did we feel it was unraveling,” Cash said.

Dickerson became the fifth Ray to get his 30th RBI of the season. Tampa Bay is one of three teams that have five players with at least 30.

“We’re resilient,” said Chris Archer, who had a no-decision. “That’s one thing that we always have been. It’s a blow, but Mallex offers us something nice. To be quite honest, the reason that we acquired him was for something of this nature. If an outfielder goes down, we’re able to fill the void and not miss a whole lot.

“It’s nice. I said this a couple weeks ago but I like our lineup. I think we’re going to get a couple pieces here soon that’s really going to help us. I think we’re a good team. And it’s been on display for the last 10 to 15 days.”

The Rays are now two games above .500 at 34-32. They travel to Toronto now, where Jake Odorizzi pitches Tuesday against Marco Estrada.

Corey Dickerson drove in Smith twice with big runs./CARMEN MANDATO

Corey Dickerson drove in Smith twice with big runs./CARMEN MANDATO

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Larry Beller June 12, 2017 at 6:43 am

In past years this is the type of game the Rays offense would not show up. Get behind early, playing a lessor opponent, day game after a night game or in this case a doubleheader. But this is a different year and this team is showing some big time resiliency. I have to admit after Seattle my expectations for this home stand weren’t great but the Rays showed me something.

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Gary Shelton June 12, 2017 at 2:31 pm

After Seattle, I thought we were going to have a Mei Lei massacre.

Nice photo, huh?

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