ST. PETERSBURG — You remember Nathan Haynes?
“Sure I remember Nathan Haynes,” Evan Longoria said.
Every Rays fan should remember Nathan Haynes.
Longoria thought of Haynes the other night after Jason Bourgeois stopped the Rays’ losing streak with a game-winning hit in the bottom of the ninth inning.
Longoria said Bourgeois’ bases-loaded single to right field had a 2008 feel to it, and everyone remembers what 2008 felt like around here, when walk-off wins seemed to be a nightly occurrence.
There were walk-off home runs by Longoria and Carlos Peña and walk-off doubles by Rocco Baldelli and Dioner Navarro. There were 11 walk-off wins that year, and there have been 54 since the start of that season.
That’s where Haynes comes in.
He had the very first walk-off hit in 2008.
“A bouncer between first and second,” manager Joe Maddon said.
It happened in the 11th inning on April 25 and scored Carl Crawford from second base to beat the Red Sox 5-4 on a Friday night.
“I have a photo in my house of me shaking hands with Joe on the field after that hit,” Haynes said. “It was a great moment in my baseball career.”
Haynes, now the hitting coach for Class A Burlington in the Angels organization, didn’t last long with the Rays. He was designated for assignment a few weeks later when Cliff Floyd returned from the disabled list, cleared waivers and finished the year with Triple-A Durham.
That game-winning hit against the Red Sox would be the last of his two-year big-league career.
Of course it was. That’s how things seem to work around Tropicana Field.
Remember Brandon Allen? Had a cup of coffee with the Rays last season, staying long enough to beat the Angels with a ninth-inning homer four years and a day after Haynes’ big hit.
Bourgeois was called up when Desmond Jennings went on the disabled list and delivered a hit that could be, as Maddon said, the difference between winning the division and heading to the postseason as a wild-card team.
And, like Haynes, Bourgeois is happy to help no matter how long he retains his locker in the Rays’ clubhouse.
“All I can do is try my best,” Bourgeois said. “These guys are capable of winning a World Series with or without me. I believe in these guys. There’s a team camaraderie here that’s one of a kind. They’re going to be just fine, but I hope to be here.”
Camaraderie is the operative word.
“You feel welcomed, like you’re a part of it, not like you’re the 26th man on a 25-man roster,” Haynes said. “When the manager asks you about your day, that’s not something you see everywhere, and I think it helps you relax and reach your potential.”
Haynes entered the game that night in the ninth inning as a pinch-runner for Peña and stayed in the game as the DH. His turn at bat came up in the 11th after Crawford led off with a single and stole second, and after the Red Sox walked B.J. Upton.
Haynes figured he would be asked to bunt and was pleasantly surprised when Maddon told him to swing away.
Maddon said that was because he knew Haynes had the speed to stay out of a double play. Haynes saw it as a huge vote of confidence in a huge moment.
“It just seems like that’s the way time has written it since 2008,” Longoria said. “Whenever that opportunity arises for the new guy, they seem to always come through.”
Haynes, Longoria, Gabe Gross, Floyd, Willy Aybar, Jason Bartlett, Dan Johnson, Reid Brignac, Upton, Robinson Chirinos, Sam Fuld, Casey Kotchman, Ben Zobrist, Matt Joyce, Yunel Escobar, Wil Myers, Bourgeois and Jose Lobaton — long-timers and part-timers — all stand shoulder-to-shoulder on that list of 54 walk-off hits.
“You have a much better chance for Nathan Haynes to come through and Jason Bourgeois to come through, Brandon Allen, all those guys can come through if you let them be themselves,” Maddon said.