Something interesting happened in the 12th inning of yesterday’s game. (Well, ok, we scored a run and Soriano got a save so let’s say something else interesting happened in the 12th inning).
Rocco Baldelli pinch-hit for Brad Hawpe to face port-sider Dusty Hughes, got a hit, scored the go-ahead run. Looking closely at the tea leaves, that may have been a final audition for the postseason roster.
Texas is sure to throw at least three left-handed starters at the Rays. Looking at the Rays post-season bench, there appear to be two spots to divide amongst Dioner Navarro, Desmond Jennings, Willy Aybar, and Rocco Baldelli. Rock is really the wild card in the mix because, unlike the other three contenders, he is not a two-move player.*
If the Rays use Rock off the bench to hit against a lefty, he can remain in the game and play leftfield. That isn’t the case for the other three players. If Navi checks in as a defensive replacement in a close game, Maddon will likely have to pinch-hit for him in his next at bat — thus “two moves.” Same for the light-hitting Jennings. If he pinch runs, he will need a pinch hitter. Aybar, on the other hand, is a defensive liability who will need a defensive replacement following a pinch-hit appearance.
So, if Rock is healthy enough to play in the outfield in consecutive games (he played in three games in the final week with the kind of rest in between he would get in the protracted playoff schedule) the Rays will certainly take advantage of his .831 career OPS vs. LHP (I discovered this new stat called tOPS. Rock has a career 117 tOPS against LHP which, apparently, means he is better against lefties than expected. I need to learn more about this. Someone school me on tOPS in the comments please.). Rock’s availability also gives the skipper the option of using Rock in RF, Zobrist at 1B, and Aybar as the DH against Texas’ left-handed starters if he wants to tilt the order to the right.
These are all good things.
*I stole this term from Rays radio announcer Dave Wills and am not acting like it has always been a part of the baseball lexicon because I like it so much.