Cole’s World: Figueroa Sneaks Rays Past Red Sox | The Process Report

Cole’s World: Figueroa Sneaks Rays Past Red Sox

A day after collecting his first major-league hit, Rays’ infielder Cole Figueroa played the role of hero on Friday night. Pinch-hitting for Thursday’s star, Sean Rodriguez, in the bottom of the ninth, Figueroa laced an RBI double to right-center field to give Tampa Bay a 1-0 victory. It was the team’s second walk-off win in as many days after going the first 47 games without one.

Prior to his plate appearance, Figueroa said Rays’ franchise player, Evan Longoria, offered him some advice in anticipation of his matchup former Tampa Bay reliever Burke Badenhop. “On that at-bat, I got down 0-2 pretty quickly” the 26-year-old rookie said. “I had gotten a tip from Longo that 0-2 he might try to sneak one inside.” Figueroa’s heroic hit actually came after a 1-2 count, but he gets a partial pass since the ball came on a failed pitchout in which Desmond Jennings swiped second base to get into scoring position.

Parsing through ESPN’s Stats & Info. database, it appears Longoria was working off newly acquired information rather than insider trading from his time as a teammate of Badenhop. As a member of the Rays, Badenhop went inside just 14 percent of the time against left-handed batters with two strikes. The 31-year-old prefers to do the bulk of his fastball work to his arm-side; however Longoria’s observation was not without merit.

Entering play on Friday, Badenhop had increased the number of glove-side, two-strike pitches against left-handed batters to 24 percent this season. Remember, Longoria did not say Badenhop would definitely go glove-side, but that he my try to “sneak” one in.

Just before the final pitch of the night is delivered, Red Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski is positioned on the outer half as Badenhop comes to the set position. There is a clear gap between Pierzynski and Figueroa. In this shot you can a decent amount Stu Scheurwater, the home plate umpire.


Once Badenhop releases the ball, Pierzynski quickly shifts his to the other side of the plate. The gap to Figueroa has been closed and Scheurwater is reduced to a shoulder and mask according to the viewer.


With Longoria’s tip in mind, Figueroa deposited the two-strike pitch – an 88-mph sinker – into the gap. Ball game.


Longoria had a good night at the plate. He went 3-4 which raised his season average from .251 to .262. But as it turns out, his biggest contribution to the victory was some sage wisdom.

Data and heat map courtesy of ESPN Stats & Info.

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