AP – Adeiny Hechavarria sidestepped catcher Salvador Perez, and instinct took over. Right hand, left hand — then straight to the highlight reels.
Hechavarria danced around Perez with an inventive slide at home plate to score the go-ahead run, and the Tampa Bay Rays beat the Kansas City Royals 2-1 on Monday night.
Hechavarria ran through third base coach Matt Quatraro’s stop sign on Matt Duffy’s single to right field in the sixth inning, deked to avoid Perez’s lunging tag attempted, then dived back toward the plate. Hechavarria faked toward the dish with his right hand, then jabbed his left hand just past Perez’s outstretched glove to touch the plate. Umpire Rob Drake immediately signaled him safe.
“That was pure instinct,” Hechavarria said through an interpreter. “I went in thinking, going into a slide, but he was right there kind of blocking the plate, so I went around. I was going to put one hand in, and I saw he was going to put one hand there, so I flipped and put the other hand in there just in time.”
Perez said he expected Hechavarria to jump or slide on a close play. Instead, the backstop ended up diving all over trying to follow Hechavarria’s body.
“He did a tremendous job changing hands,” Perez said. “I think the right hand at first and soon as he sees me (about) to tag him, then he changed from the right to the left and I was too late. That was a great slide. He was safe. We don’t challenge. It’s hard to prepare for that.”
Rays manager Kevin Cash was not pleased with one aspect of the winning run.
“Running through a stop sign, I guess he felt like being acrobatic,” Cash said. “That was a really impressive slide, but we’re probably not going to benefit from making those decisions too often, but it was nice that we did tonight.”
Ryan Yarbrough (3-2) allowed one run over five innings for Tampa Bay, and Duffy had three hits and drove in both runs. Alex Colome worked the ninth for his seventh save in nine opportunities.
Eric Skoglund (1-3) permitted two runs on seven hits, walked none and struck out four in 7 2/3 innings, his longest career outing. He tied a Royals’ record with six assists by a pitcher.
Whit Merrifield had three hits for his seventh multihit game in the past 14 and homered into the Rays’ bullpen to lead off the third.
Yarbrough gave up five hits and picked up his first career victory as a starter. Five Rays relievers held the Royals to one hit over the final four innings.
Jon Jay tripled with one out in the ninth, but Colome struck out Ryan Goins and retired Alex Gordon on a grounder to end the game.
C.J. Cron doubled in the first, extending his on-base streak to 20 games, and scored on Duffy’s single to right. Cron later hit a pitch from Skoglund after it bounced in front of home plate, knocking a line drive that was caught in left field in the sixth.
Yarbrough wriggled out of a bases-loaded jam with one out in the fifth. Alcides Escobar and Merrifield singled and Jorge Soler walked on four pitches. Mike Moustakas bounced a first pitch back to Yarbrough to start an inning-ending double play.