Juan Pierre has collected more infield hits than anyone else in the game since arriving in the majors in 2000, but he had never won a game with one until now.
Pierre beat out a grounder to deep short in the bottom of the 11th inning to score Jimmy Rollins and give the Phillies an 8-7 win over the Cardinals on Sunday.
It was Pierre’s sixth career game-winning hit. Half of them came in the Marlins’ championship year in 2003. He also had one for Florida in 2005, one for the White Sox last year and now today’s. All six hits were singles, but the first five all went to the outfield.
The Phillies were in a position to win it today because journeyman catcher Erik Kratz came up big with a three-run homer in the eighth. The 33-year-old Kratz entered the 2012 season with 40 at-bats and one RBI as a major leaguer. Filling in for Brian Schneider earlier and Carlos Ruiz currently, he has five homers, five doubles and 12 RBI in 45 at-bats this year.
The victory went to Jeremy Horst, his first in 27 appearances as a major leaguer. Left-hander Barret Browning took his second loss in three days for the Cardinals.
The Rays were busy over the weekend, trading starter Jake Odorizzi to the Twins, designating All-Star outfielder Corey Dickerson for assignment, and then picking up C.J. Cron in a deal with the Angels. The Rays saved about $4 million — Odorizzi’s $6.3 million less Cron’s $2.3 million salary — and picked up a prospect. They’re still on the hook for Dickerson’s $5.95 million salary until they can find a trade partner, which seems likely.
Those are some head-scratching moves if you’re a Rays fan or a member of the Rays. Dickerson hit .282/.325/.490 with 27 home runs, 62 RBI, and 84 runs scored in 629 plate appearances last season, part of which resulted in his first trip to the All-Star Game. Designating him for assignment is strictly a financial move, assuming he can be traded. The Rays are currently operating with a payroll below $70 million. This comes just a week and a half after Rays ownership proposed the public footing most of the bill for the club’s new stadium. And the Rays had traded third baseman Evan Longoria — then the face of the franchise — to the Giants earlier this offseason.
Longoria expressed sympathy for Rays fans for having to put up with this. Via Andrew Baggarly, Longoria said of the curious Dickerson move, “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base. … I’m not going to take too many shots but it’s pretty obvious that guy is a valuable player and didn’t deserve to be DFAd. Corey was our best player last year.”
Longoria isn’t quite on the money there. By WAR, Dickerson ranked fifth among position players on the team, according to Baseball Reference. FanGraphs is also in agreement. Still, it’s indisputable that Dickerson, who turns 29 years old this May, more than pulled his weight. The Rays do not have a surfeit of starting outfielders, so it wasn’t like they were making room for other capable players. Mallex Smith, who put up a .684 OPS in 282 PA last year, is slated to start in left field at the moment. Designating Dickerson for assignment, as well as trading Longoria and Odorizzi, were simply cost-cutting decisions.
The Rays’ M.O. has been part of the problem leading to the current stagnant free agent market (sans Eric Hosmer‘s eight-year deal on Saturday). Teams like the Rays, Phillies, Reds, and Tigers have been explicitly putting out non-competitive teams in order to facilitate a rebuilding process. Longoria is right to express sympathy for Rays fans, who see their favorite team worsening a roster that went 80-82 last year. The Rays haven’t finished at .500 or above since 2013 and doesn’t figure to halt the streak this year.