Speed is the thing that has kept 33-year-old OF Rich Thompson's dream of playing in the major leagues alive, and on Wednesday it helped to give life to a modest two-game Rays winning streak.
Thompson, whose last major league appearance before joining the Rays in a trade last week came eight years ago, used his "plus-speed'' to score the winning run in the Rays' 5-4 win over the Blue Jays at Tropicana Field.
"You have to be able to get on base to use it but it's something that's valuable," Thompson said of his speed, which was put to use when OF B.J. Upton ripped a one-out double to left in the bottom of the 11th.
With Upton's double bouncing around in the left field corner in front of him, Thompson never broke stride as he came around third base and headed for home on a play that surprised the equally speedy Upton.
Upton said he thought Thompson would probably stop at third on the play, but despite taking a wide turn around third that could have proved costly, Thompson beat the throw home with time to spare.
"I was kind of expecting there to be a play or something at the plate, but when the ball gets kicked around the corner there a little bit it's tough (to make a play),'' Thompson said.
Thompson used more than speed in his 11th-inning attempt to make a game-winning impact. Early in his leadoff at-bat, he acted like he'd been hit by a pitch on a ball thrown inside near his right thigh.
Thompson began running down to first and even took off a protective guard he wears before home plate umpire Andy Fletcher called him back. Thompson eventually walked, though, setting up Upton's game-winning hit.
Ben Zobrist wasn't in the starting lineup Wednesday so he had little chance to atone for the rare mistake he made during the fifth inning of the Rays' 8-5 win Tuesday against the Blue Jays.
Zobrist committed a throwing error while playing right field in that inning, making it the first time in his career — a span of 270 games — that he has committed an error as an outfielder.
The streak of errorless games in the outfield was the longest to start a career since former Oakland/San Francisco OF Darren Lewis played in 392 games without an error from 1990-94, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
One of the first Rays players to be placed on the disabled list this season believes he could be ready for a return to action some time in June, which would be two months sooner than initially expected.
OF Sam Fuld, who broke his right wrist during spring training, said the doctor that performed his surgery told him this week the wrist is healing nicely and that he could begin a hitting program in early June.
"What I was thinking initially was mid-August (for a return), but it might be a little sooner now,'' Fuld said. "Not surprisingly the biggest test is going to come when I actually start hitting."
The Rays announced a partnership with the Helios Education Foundation that will donate $1 million to Tampa area students participating in the Take Stock in Children program. The partnership calls for the Helios Foundation to donate $600 to Take Stock for every double hit by a Rays player and for the Rays Baseball Foundation to match that donation. The aim is to donate $1 million to Take Stock over a five-year period.
Rays batters drew a season-high 10 walks against Toronto pitchers. The total was the most since the Rays drew 10 against Detroit on Aug. 10, 2010, and were two shy of the club record for most in a game. … 1B Carlos Peña hit leadoff for the second straight game and is now 3-for-6 with three runs scored, three RBIs and a homer. … The Rays won 2-of-3 games against the Jays in this series and have won 15 straight home series against Toronto. That mark includes a 2008 series win at Champion Stadium at Disney's Wide World of Sports. … The Rays are 11-3 in one-run games this year, second best in MLB behind Cleveland (9-2).