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Small ball, big moment for Odorizzi in St. Louis

Cards fan growing up, Rays starter tags Waino with squeeze bunt in first PA

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Small ball, big moment for Odorizzi in St. Louis play video for Small ball, big moment for Odorizzi in St. Louis

ST. LOUIS -- When Jake Odorizzi stepped to the plate against the Cardinals at Busch Stadium on Tuesday night, it marked a special moment.

For one, he did so in front of hundreds of family and friends, who made the near-30-minute trek from his hometown of Highland, Ill., to watch him. For another, it was his first Major League plate appearance.

Odorizzi, who grew up as a Cardinals fan and watched Adam Wainwright record the final out of the World Series in 2006 -- and hadn't been to Busch Stadium since watching the Cardinals win Game 7 of the 2011 Fall Classic, for that matter -- dug in to face Wainwright some eight years later. The right-hander hadn't stepped in the batter's box since he attended Highland High School.

"So it's been a while," Odorizzi said earlier in the week. "That's the last time I've seen live pitching from anybody other than a coach. When you see somebody like Wainwright compared to a high school kid, it's going to be like night and day."

With runners on the corners in the second inning, however, Odorizzi laid down a safety-squeeze bunt, which scored James Loney from third, giving the Rays a 1-0 lead in an eventual 7-2 victory over the Cardinals.

"How about the bunt he put down?" Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "Here's a guy that hadn't really had the chance to do that in a game probably since his senior year in high school, and all of a sudden he puts that bunt down in those circumstances."

For Odorizzi, it was one plate appearance and one Major League RBI in his first full season in the big leagues. He also drew a walk during the Rays' five-run fifth inning that chased Wainwright from the game.

On the mound, Odorizzi allowed two solo home runs and ended up lasting 5 2/3 innings, allowing five hits, to earn the victory. When he headed for the dugout, cheers emerged from the St. Louis crowd, and Odorizzi tipped his cap.

"I didn't know what to expect coming in, and I didn't think I would have much nerves to be honest, and then I definitely had a lot of nerves," Odorizzi said. "I was nervous. I was excited. I was just about anything you could be."

He outperformed a pitcher he grew up watching and picked up an RBI against him, too. So, what was more special?

"Probably [the] RBI," Odorizzi said. "Taking advantage and getting the RBI in, I think I was more shaky and nervous and excited after that than I was for the first inning walking out for the first pitch."

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

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