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April 17, 2010

One-Hoppers

Game Story: Fenway Resumption Mad[don]ness

by David Laurila

Pat Burrell won the game. Joe Maddon won the style points.

The Tampa Bay Rays were victorious in the resumption of last night’s suspended game at Fenway Park -- rain had halted the contest in the middle of the ninth -- and managerial creativity played a big role. Burrell’s two run homer off Manny Delcarmen in the top of the 12th provided the winning runs, but Maddon’s willingness to be unconventional proved just as noteworthy.

The Red Sox loaded the bases with none out in the bottom of the 11th against Lance Cormier, and with David Ortiz coming to the plate, Maddon went into shift overdrive. The Rays manager employed a five-man infield, bringing Ben Zobrist in from the outfield and positioning Carl Crawford and B.J. Upton in shallow right- and left-center respectively. Knowing that Ortiz rarely hits the ball on the ground to the opposite field, only Evan Longoria remained cleanly on the left side. With shortstop Jason Bartlett hovering near the bag, the first-base side of the infield was flooded with Rays.

The script played to perfection, as Ortiz grounded to Carlos Pena who threw home for the force out -- Dioner Navarro making a good play to rein in a low toss.

“You could put everybody on that side [against Ortiz],” Maddon said after the game. “I told them, ‘everybody go on that side for him,’ and when we went in there, J.B. was still on this side and we kept pushing him over. That’s something we work on, but it always changes according to the hitter. You have to wait for the hitter to know exactly where you want to be.”

With Adrian Beltre coming to the plate, Maddon then balanced his five-man infield, employing his regular foursome in standard position while placing Zobrist almost directly at the second-base bag.

The gambit once again worked perfectly, as Beltre grounded into a double play, ending the inning and setting the stage for Burrell’s heroics.

“Lance was spectacular,” said Maddon, giving props to one of the game‘s unsung stars. “They got a couple of knocks, but then he put the ball on the ground twice. Putting the ball on the ground twice is what got us out of that jam, then Pat came through. He hit that ball extremely well.”

“I was very pumped [coming off the mound],” said Cormier. “I think it took a little bit to sink in what had just happened. The moment the first two guys got on, all the infielders came in and Longo [Evan Longoria] said, ‘We’re two ground balls away, we’re two ground balls away.'’ Then I got a ground ball and he makes an error, and I’m like, ‘OK, bases loaded, it’s not fun -- it’s not a fun situation to be in, it’s raining, it’s freezing, but let’s just make the best of it. That's what I tried to do and once the next play happened I just felt good about us. I wanted to get another ground ball and we got it.”

Final score: Rays 3, Red Sox 1; Joe Maddon, unconventional genius.

6 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

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Matt Kory

OK, fine, but Madden's ridiculous machinations had nothing to do with the Rays winning. Both Ortiz's and Beltre's hits were right at where the first and third basemen (respectively) would normally be positioned on those plays. Madden's moves were interesting, but I don't see how either one played a role in the Rays win.

Apr 17, 2010 22:28 PM
rating: -1
 
buddaley

You may be right except for the phrase "ridiculous machinations". There was nothing ridiculous about the moves, and machinations connotes sneakiness rather than tactical. There is certainly nothing ridiculous about the tactic when a grounder that sneaks through the infield or a long fly ball ends the game.

In any case it is possible that having 4 infielders on the right side of 2B allowed Pena to play closer to the line, even if only by a foot or two, and so made it more likely he gets to the Ortiz grounder and in position to throw home. And similarly, having Zobrist play right behind 2B may clear the shortstop to cheat a bit to 3B and Longoria to play closer to the line which led to the easy 5-3 DP.

Again, perhaps the results would have been the same without the flooded infield, but the move made sense and could have influenced the outcome.

Apr 18, 2010 03:38 AM
rating: 2
 
qwerty12

"gamut" should be "gambit"

Apr 18, 2010 08:08 AM
rating: 0
 
kjohnson

Interesting that Maddon played five infielders versus Ortiz in this situation. In a game at the Trop in September 2007, Maddon used five outfielders versus Ortiz his first two times up to bat.

Apr 18, 2010 12:13 PM
rating: 0
 
tgrcub
(609)

I thought that it was an interesting, and correct, managerial play. Frankly, bases loaded and no outs lets the manager off the hook easily (let's face it - the Sox probability to win at that point was pretty darn high). Don't forget that it's the versatility of Zobrist (he does play a pretty good second base) that really made this move a no brainer. I've often wondered if this 5inf/2OF deployment wouldn't be a good spring training trial for a team with a sinkerballer and two rangy outfielders.

Apr 18, 2010 12:25 PM
rating: 0
 
krissbeth

I'd think it would have to vary by hitter. I wouldn't see a problem with doing that against extreme groundball hitters with little power, like Castillo or Pierre.

Apr 19, 2010 07:51 AM
rating: 0
 
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