Rey Ordonez, known for his magic in the field, came through with a big night at the plate.
By TOM JONES, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 2, 2003
ST. PETERSBURG -- He plays shortstop like a magician, this Rey Ordonez.
Hits simply disappear in the glove of this new Devil Ray.
Now you see it. Now you don't. The ball gets ripped somewhere in the same zip code as Ordonez, and with a flick of the glove -- abracadabra -- and a laser throw -- ta da -- hits turn into outs.
Slick fielding always has been his best feature, usually the only reason he ever shows up on SportsCenter or at the end of This Week in Baseball.
But this wizard brought his wand Tuesday night as well. Actually, it was a coal-black Louisville Slugger.
Oh sure, he spun another one of those did-you-see-that plays, but it was his bat that stole the show and became the starting gun for the marathon.
Ordonez banged out three hits and equaled his career high with four RBIs. And it was his two-run homer, his first since May 31, that tied it in the bottom of the eighth and sent the game into early Wednesday morning.
Trailing 8-6 the Rays knotted it when Ordonez popped a 3-and-2 fastball from Bob Howry just over the leftfield wall for his first homer -- or the same number of homers he hit last season. It was only the ninth of his seven-year-and-two-game major-league career.
Of course, the only reason the Rays and Ordonez stayed close the Red Sox going to the bottom of the eighth was because of what Ordonez did in the top of the eighth. Moving quicker than a cat, he took two steps to his left and pounced on his knees to somehow snag an invisible grounder off the bat of Boston's Nomar Garciaparra with a runner on first. Instead of Red Sox on the corners with one out, Ordonez turned it into a 6-4-3 double play.
His defensive gem produced oohs and ahhs, but came as no real surprise.
After all, Ordonez came to Tampa Bay with the reputation of making incredible plays look as common as routine grounders. He won three straight Gold Gloves (1997-99) in the National League with the Mets and holds six NL fielding records, including most consecutive errorless games by a shortstop (101), fewest errors by a shortstop in a season (four) and the best fielding percentage by a shortstop (.9938).
He showed off his defensive prowess with several sparkling plays in the spring.
But hitting ninth the Rays lineup left little doubt it was his glove, and not his bat, as the reason he was in the lineup at all.
The man who is the epitome of all-glove, no-stick, though, stuck it to the Red Sox. He reached base in his first four at-bats and drove in four, including arun-scoring double in the sixth and a run-scoring single in the fourth.