Sam Fuld fuels another Tampa Bay Rays victory

Super sub shines in front of sellout crowd at the Trop

jlembo@bradenton.comAugust 5, 2013 

ST. PETERSBURG -- Sam Fuld may not have liked the circumstances that led to his name being penciled into Sunday afternoon's starting lineup.

But that had no effect on his play.

While starting centerfielder Desmond Jennings sat out with a sprained finger on his left hand, Fuld provided a jolt from the No. 9 spot in the Tampa Bay Rays' 4-3 win over the San Francsico Giants.

In front of 34,078 fans -- the first sellout at Tropicana Field this season since Opening Day -- Fuld scored the game-tying in the fifth and drove in the eventual game-winner in sixth, helping the Rays (66-45) stay a game behind the Boston Red Sox in the American League East.

"When you're in the situation I'm in, you try and take advantage of any opportunity you can get," Fuld said. "You hate to see teammates go down with any sort of injury, but it's nice to know I can step in. I'm not going to try to do what Des does, but I'll just try to contribute however I can."

Fuld drew a leadoff walk in the fifth, stole second and then scored on a two-out single by Evan Longoria, who

came into the at-bat mired in an 0-for-19 slump.

An inning later, Rays manager Joe Maddon let the lefty-swinging Fuld bat against southpaw Jose Mijares. Fuld, who began the day hitting .324 against lefties, responded with a single to right to plate Yunel Escobar.

"I did like him right there," said Maddon, who could have went to right-handed hitting utility guy Sean Rodriguez. "I liked him, and I was going to stay put. ... Regardless of what our numbers showed, I liked Sam in that moment.

"Sammy's always ready. I mean, he's always ready -- there's no question about that. You feel very comfortable on defensive side; offensively, he's capable of a big hit."

Maddon said Jennings will be re-evaluated Monday.

Fuld's discipline and speed helped set up Longoria, who was so happy to be freed from his slump that he kept the ball from his fifth-inning single.

"I've said it before, it's a lot easier when the team's winning," said Longoria, who went .194 during the Rays' 21-5 run through July. "Obviously, I would like to produce every game and be part of every game offensively. But when you can continue to work, and even if you don't get a result, the team is still winning, (it) makes it a lot easier to come through it."

The Giants strung together three singles off of Roberto Hernandez to take a 1-0 lead in the first before Wil Myers' monstrous home to left put the Rays up 2-1 in the bottom half. San Francisco reclaimed the lead in the fourth on Brandon Crawford's two-run triple before the Rays went on top for good thanks to a bullpen that allowed two baserunners over the final 4 1/3 innings.

Alex Torres hit Brandon Belt, the first batter he faced in the fifth, but he set down the final five he faced to run his record to 4-0. Jake McGee, Joel Peralta and Fernando Rodney followed, with Rodney locking down his 27th save and 18th straight.

"The guys were fantastic," Maddon said. "The bullpen, like I've talked about earlier, they're going to be the best in the American League. I think we're getting close to that right now."

The weekend wins helped the Rays clinch a winning homestand at 3-2. They embark on a five-game swing out West beginning with Tuesday's game in Arizona against the Diamondbacks.

They also managed to send plenty of fans home happy: Sunday's sellout coupled with Saturday's attendance of nearly 32,000 made it the first time this year the Rays drew a crowd of at least 30,000 to the Trop on consecutive days.

"It was really cool," Fuld said. "It was a good environment. There were high-leverage moments when it was loud, and it had the feel of a playoff environment."

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