Rays look to Kolarek (yeah, him) for the rescue

by Gary Shelton on August 17, 2018 · 0 comments

in general, Tampa Bay Rays

Kolarek escaped a bases-loaded, no one out situation in the ninth./JEFFREY S. KING

Kolarek escaped a bases-loaded, no one out situation in the ninth./JEFFREY S. KING

Thursday, 4 a.m.

Sometimes, even the guy in charge of the saves needs saving.

Sometimes, he needs it from the least likely source on the roster.

Think Kolarek will remmber his first save?/jEFFREY S. KING

Think Kolarek will remmber his first save?/JEFFREY S. KING

Moments after Sergio Romo -- who leads the team in saves with 14 -- blew up and seemed determined to blow the Rays' latest game against the New York Yankees, the Rays instead were rescued by Adam Kolarek -- all together now: Who? -- with one of the best tightrope walks of the season.

Kolarek, a guy with zero major league saves and a 6.00 ERA, was forced into the game with the bases loaded and no one out in the bottom of the ninth inning.

A popup and two strikeouts later, and the day was his.

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Bauers' bunt lead to an insurance run./JEFFREY S. KING

Bauers' bunt lead to an insurance run./JEFFREY S. KING

“When I was jogging in front the bullpen, I was telling myself 'I’ve been in this situation before,'" Kolarek said. "It was not at this level or in a big stadium like this. I was trying to go through my normal routine and approach it like every other time it’s happened. I was glad to get that first out. After that happens, you know you’re one pitch away. I was just fortunate  to get the strikeouts. They’re always fun to see."

Pham had his first two hits for the Rays./JEFFREY S. KING

Pham had his first two hits for the Rays./JEFFREY S. KING

Imagine it. On one hand, you had a pitcher in Romo who was going for his 100th save. On the other, you had a guy who has less than one coming in.

"I knew the stakes were a little higher," Kolarek said. "Honestly, I felt like I did a good job taking a step back and appreciating the moment  and feeling honored that I was able  to be the one to have that opportunity."

Romo also is among the league leaders in blown saves, and after Didi Gregorious and Glayber Torres singled and Neil Walker walked to load the bases, it looked as if it might happen again.

Mallex Smith has his average up to .299./CARMEN MANDATO

Mallex Smith has his average up to .299./CARMEN MANDATO

Then came Kolarek. His first pitch got Bird to pop out to the catcher. Then he struck out Brett Gardner and Austin Romine to end it.

"I asked Kyle and Charlie ,,, everyone on the bench," said Rays' manager Kevin Cash. "Adam was throwing the ball. I felt he was throwing strikes. He’s generally a guy whose going to keep the ball on the ground, "

And the conversation on the mound?

"None," Cash said. "Let’s go. I tried to stay out of the way. I’m sure he had enough anxiety. I didn’t need to add to it.

"It was a big moment for him in his young career."

There were other moments for the Rays, who have now won eight of their last 10 games against New York. This was the first series they have won in New York since 2015.

Snell threw five innings of two-hit baseball./JEFFREY S. KING

Snell threw five innings of two-hit baseball./JEFFREY S. KING

Blake Snell pitched five innings of two-hit baseball before leaving because of his pitch count (he is recovering from a weary shoulder). Snell is now 14-5.

Then there was rookie Jack Bauers, who has struggled as of late. With the Rays leading 2-0 in the eighth inning, the power-htting Bauers dropped down a bunt for an insurance run.

"Jake took it upon himself," Cash said. "That’s pretty special to see a young kid do that. He’s hitting third. There’s a short porch. But he's pretty unselfish. You saw it last night with the walk he drew, and we saw it today with him bunting. He's not seeing the ball well, but he gave us a huge run."

Romo was ineffective in the ninth./JEFFREY S. KING

Romo was ineffective in the ninth./JEFFREY S. KING

Said Bauers: "It's no secret. I haven't been feeling great at the plate. I saw an opportunity to drop one down if I got a pitch to do it. I wasn't thinking that I would be bunting my whole at bat.

"Anytime you're not feeling good and you can do something productive and get that little bit of confidence back, you're doing good.

Bauers was pleased that the Rays finally won a series in New York.

"We knew," Bauers said. "It means something. especially for this group of guys going into next year. Hopefully, its  a sign of better days here. It’s good to be the team to do it. To not win a series in that long when we come here that often...it’s a big thing.

For the Rays, Mallex Smith, Joey Wendle and Tommy Pham all had two hits. For Pham it was his first two hits as a Rays' player. Smith and Wendle both creeped toward .300. Smith is at .299 and Wendle at .293.

The Rays,  62-59 on the year, now travel to Boston. Ryne Stanek is scheduled to open for the Rays tonight at 7:10 p.m. against Brian Johnson of the Red Sox.

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