Taylor Walls helped the Tampa Bay Rays open the week on an emotional note, and the infielder hopes his dramatic hit wakes up the club’s bats.
After watching Walls produce his first career walk-off home run — a two-out, three-run shot in the 10th inning — the Rays will look to use that as an offensive springboard in Wednesday’s game against the St. Louis Cardinals in St. Petersburg, Fla.
With his team trailing 2-1 and him down 2-2 in the count, Walls belted the game-winning blast off the right-field foul pole for a 4-2 win in the interleague series opener.
“I was going to be so mad if that ball didn’t stay fair, geez,” said Walls, who leaned to his left to coax the ball fair. “I was walking it down the line to stay fair.”
The infielder, who is batting .154, was one of four Tampa Bay players in Tuesday’s starting lineup hitting under .200.
“We have some good bats, but a bunch of people are struggling,” he said. “We come in here every day and are working our butts off. Hopefully, it starts paying off for everybody.”
Walls joined Manuel Margot (single, April 12) and Kevin Kiermaier (home run, April 23) as Rays with walk-off hits.
Right-hander Corey Kluber (2-2, 3.73 ERA) will look to build on six-inning outings his past two times out in which he allowed just a run in each.
The two-time Cy Young Award winner has made two appearances against St. Louis during his 12-year career — all spent in the American League. He is 1-1 with a 5.59 ERA, having last faced them in an 11-2 loss on June 26, 2018, in St. Louis.
The Rays demoted lefty Ryan Yarbrough (0-3, 5.65) to Triple-A Durham after seven outings and promoted right-hander Luke Bard in a corresponding move.
Drew Verhagen failed in the 10th inning to record his first career save, but one arm St. Louis manager Oliver Marmol might count on is Zack Thompson.
In his debut Friday, Thompson — who often hits 98 mph — threw four innings to close out St. Louis’ 14-5 victory over the Chicago Cubs. Thompson recorded a save his first time out, allowing one run on three hits.
A native of Selma, Ind., just over four hours from Wrigley Field, Thompson said he had always envisioned toeing the rubber in the legendary ballpark, playing the moment over and over in his head.
“I’ve dreamed of this day my whole life, and mentally I’ve pitched here several times, and words can’t describe this feeling,” Thompson said following his debut. “When I came in (before the game), I went out on the field and soaked it all up a little bit. This was the place; this was always the place for me (in my mind).”
The Cardinals handed the promising hurler the revered 57 jersey — a number that hadn’t been worn in nearly 20 years following the tragic death of pitcher Darryl Kile on June 22, 2002, in Chicago.
On Wednesday, the Cardinals will give the ball to left-hander Packy Naughton (0-1, 3.09), who will be making his third start and eighth appearance of the season. He has never faced the Rays.
–Field Level Media