There were several reasons why 1B Carlos Peña batted leadoff Tuesday against the Blue Jays, and one landed on top of the restaurant in center field in the fourth inning.
Manager Joe Maddon was trying to shock Peña out of another horrendous slump that stretched to 0-for-18 before his three-run blast extended the Rays' lead to 6-0.
"Just trying to give him a different outlook on the day," Maddon said. "Really just think about himself differently, accept your walks, hit singles up the middle, do something to score runs and get on base, and on the flip-side I think the bottom part of our order is able to get on base and he'll be able to drive in runs. But primarily, think of yourself as a table-setter."
Peña didn't set any tables during his first two at-bats, but he managed to hit his first home run since May 5, a blast that was estimated at 452 feet.
Maddon has tried this tactic before with 3B Evan Longoria and LF Matt Joyce.
"That's the way we do things here," Peña said. "We're not trying to conform to any rules or anything like that. We're not afraid to try new things, and Joe is very innovative in that regard, and I appreciate that. Even if it's to shock us a little bit, I think it's genius."
Peña entered the game batting .127 with 27 strikeouts this month. He was hitless in his previous five games, matching the third-longest drought of his career. Peña never started a game as the leadoff hitter during his career, yet he said he trusted Maddon's motives.
"It shifts energy," he said. "Obviously we want to shift energy in the right direction, and Joe understands that. Joe understands how powerful that is. I was all smiles when I saw my name atop (the lineup)."
Zobrist dropped to fourth
To clear room at the top of the order, Maddon dropped RF Ben Zobrist to fourth.
Zobrist entered the night with three hits in 24 at-bats on the homestand. That slump came on the heels of a road trip where Zobrist, batting leadoff in place of LF Desmond Jennings (sprained left knee), hit .367 with two home runs, five doubles and nine walks.
"I think Zo has done a great job in the leadoff spot, but I think he's at the point where he's trying to get on base too much and he's not turning it loose like he can," Maddon said. "So maybe get him more aggressive in the four-hole a bit."
Keppinger to miss up to four weeks
INF Jeff Keppinger said he has suffered broken bones before but said breaking his right big toe in Saturday's game tops some sort of list.
"On the misfortune side, it's definitely No. 1 on that one. There was nothing I could do about it," Keppinger said.
Keppinger was sitting on a bench at the top of the dugout with his foot resting against the protective netting when a foul ball struck his toe.
Maddon placed the timetable for Keppinger's return at three to four weeks.
"They said your toes heal faster than anywhere else," Keppinger said. "They said in three weeks we'll re-X-ray it. They didn't tell me six weeks, so that's good."
Jennings is doing well but probably won't be ready to return by Sunday, the first day he's eligible to come off the DL. He will need a few rehab games to get ready. … Led by four from Peña, the Rays have a major league-best eight strikeouts on attempted bunts with two strikes. That's the most by an AL team since the 1979 Angels. Peña said he won't shy away from doing it. "That all depends," he said. "Some days you feel more courageous than others. As you can see, I'm not afraid to try it. It takes guts because if you mess it up you feel silly."