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Rays

Rays' rookies rock

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Published:   |   Updated: March 20, 2013 at 04:57 PM
ST. PETERSBURG -

Bases loaded in the bottom of the 12th, the winning run danced off third base. Robinson Chirinos advanced to the plate in another big moment.

Didn't he just do something like that? Oh yeah, the inning before when the Rays rookie catcher kept the game alive with a pinch-hit RBI single that tied the score.

An inning later, Chirinos was back at the plate, this time with a chance to win the game with a hit.

Pressure? Sure, Chirinos said, but not him.

"The pitcher has the pressure," he said. "So we got to make him throw a strike and try to get a base hit."

Chirinos got the hit, a single through a drawn-in infield that scored B.J. Upton and gave the Rays a 7-6, 12-inning win against the Blue Jays at Tropicana Field in front a camp day-fueled crowd of 28,491.

It was kids' day at the ballpark, so naturally the comeback belonged to a trio of Rays rookies.

After the Jays took a 4-3 lead in the 10th, Desmond Jennings smoked a home run to left field to lead off the bottom of the inning and send the game to the 11th.

After the Jays took a 6-4 lead on a two-out triple by Jose Molina in the 11th, Chirinos came off the bench to knock home Casey Kotchman with a pinch-hit single. This, after Matt Joyce drove home Upton with a grounder to second.

Brandon Gomes earned his first big-league win by pitching a scoreless 12th that included a strikeout of Jose Bautista, whose major league-leading 33rd home run, off Wade Davis in the eighth, allowed all the extra-inning drama to unfold.

"Those guys are definitely showing us they want to be big leaguers, that they belong, and that they can help this team win right now," Johnny Damon said.

That could be the silver lining to these final two months. Jennings was called up late last month to play every day. Injuries to John Jaso and Jose Lobaton have pushed Chirinos into the catching rotation with Kelly Shoppach. And Gomes is going to get innings as long as he can get outs.

These three will receive the experience and the chance to prove they can handle life at the big-league level.

"That's what we have to find out," manager Joe Maddon said. "Experience just happens just by getting out there often enough. Makeup, I love their makeup. I think they're makeup players. Now it's a matter of how they're going to think in a crucial moment."

Jennings became the first Rays rookie to hit an extra-inning homer since Evan Longoria did it at Oakland on May 19, 2008. He's played in 12 games and has had at least two hits in seven of them.

Chirinos became the first major-league rookie to get a game-tying and game-winning hit with both coming in extra innings since Nick Green of the Braves on July 2, 2004.

And Gomes, well Gomes earned the traditional beer shower after getting his first major-league win.

"It was cold," he said.

Gomes was the last pitcher in the bullpen, so the Rays were either going to win or lose based on how he pitched.

"You have to even more than normal attack the zone and keep that pitch count down and keep us in the game any way possible," Gomes said.

Jennings has been a spark plug since he arrived July 23 in Kansas City and tripled in his first at-bat.

Chirinos has six RBIs in his past two games after not driving in a run in his first 11. As he did Wednesday, when he hit his first major-league homer and also drew a pair of walks, Chirinos displayed the patience that is supposed to be such a big part of his game by not chasing any pitches from Jays righty Shawn Camp out of the strike zone, getting singles both times when all that was needed was a single.

"Those moments are great," Chirinos said.

The postgame celebration near first base felt great, Chirinos said.

So did the cold beer shower for Gomes.

And for someone like Damon, it felt equally as satisfying watching the trio of rookies come through so flawlessly with the game on the line.

"That's a beautiful thing," Damon said.

TODAY'S GAME

Athletics

at Rays

When: 7:10 p.m. TV: Sun Sports


rmooney@tampatrib.com (813) 259-7227
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