Rays react to Hamilton's historic walk

Rays react to Hamilton's historic walk

ST. PETERSBURG -- It was strange when Rays manager Joe Maddon made the call to intentionally walk Texas' Josh Hamilton on Sunday night with two outs and the bases loaded in the ninth inning.

So strange, in fact, that right-hander Grant Balfour did a quick turnaround on the hill.

"I actually looked around the bases to double-check that it was loaded," Balfour said. "I was pretty sure, but I [turned around] and was like, 'There's a guy there, and a guy there, and there.'"

The 30-year-old Balfour said he had never seen an intentional bases-loaded walk and he wasn't the only member of the Rays dugout to witness a first.

"Unbelievable," James Shields said, adding that he would "probably never" see that scenario again.

"That goes to show you what kind of respect we have for Hamilton," he said.

The Rays had a four-run lead when Hamilton stepped up to the plate, but Maddon made what he called a "prudent move" in taking the bat out the Major League RBI leader's hands.

"I didn't like doing it," Balfour admitted. "I hate to walk a guy in, but [Maddon] made the decision. [Hamilton's] having a good year and the move worked.'

"We didn't know if it was a smart move," Shields said. "Bringing that tying run up to the plate."

But when the dust settled on Sunday night, the decision looked downright genius. After Balfour walked Hamilton, reliever Dan Wheeler took the hill and struck out Marlon Byrd to end the game and preserve a 7-4 victory over the Rangers.

"You got to go with what you think is the right thing at that moment based on everything that's presented to you," Maddon said. "Of course, if it didn't work out, I would have been skewered. And that would have been fine."

The Rays skipper said the decision was premeditated and he told pitching coach Jim Hickey of the plan -- to be used if necessary -- several batters prior.

The last player to garner an intentional walk with the bases loaded was Barry Bonds on May 28, 1998, ordered by then-Diamondbacks manager Buck Showalter.

"If I had managed against Bonds, I probably would have thought about it," Maddon said.

So will the rare stat become more of a frequent occurrence for the Rays under Maddon's watch?

Maybe.

"Hamilton having the year that he's having, David Ortiz without [Manny] Ramirez behind him. ... In a hot moment? I don't know," Maddon said, with a smile.

Brittany Ghiroli is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.