As if the Rays didn’t dig up enough hidden treasures from July through September, yet another jewel has declared itself in October.
Unless you figured Manuel Margot would be the talk of the ALCS.
The 26-year-old outfielder, once a Red Sox prospect, shined on both sides of the ball Monday afternoon as he led the Rays to a 4-2 victory over the Astros in ALCS Game 2 at Petco Park. The Rays own a 2-0 lead in this best-of-seven set thanks in large part to their early-February acquisition, who now has three homers in the postseason after hitting just one in the regular season.
“The focus level, the adrenaline, if you let that take over, you kind of lose focus of what else is around you,” Margot said through an interpreter. “You find a way to help the team win.”
Yes, Margot — included in the package that the Red Sox sent to the Padres for closer Craig Kimbrel in 2015 — became a Ray on Feb. 8, not quite prime time of the Hot Stove League, when he and minor league catcher Logan Driscoll (a future Most Valuable Player, surely) came over from the Padres for reliever Emilio Pagan. After a quiet regular season, he now has three homers in the postseason, including a first-inning, three-run blast against losing pitcher Lance McCullers Jr., and he made a ridiculous catch in the second inning that ended one of the Astros’ biggest rallies on the day.
Of the catch, in which he tracked down George Springer’s slicing foul ball in the sun, then tumbled over the wall and fell, Margot said, “Approaching it, you don’t realize how high it is. It gets a little lower over the wall. Once I flipped, it was a little further of a drop. That’s when I got a little scared.” He felt well enough to stay in the game, however, and it helped that he had seen White Sox outfielder Eloy Jimenez try to make a similar play in the 2016 Futures Game at Petco.
It proved a most turbulent 2020 for Margot, more than for most of us. He spoke Monday of a scary incident in which his car exploded with him and his family inside it, “A bystander was able to pull one of my kids out,” he said. “Luckily, I’m able to tell you guys about it.” And then he went on the bereavement list when he lost his father to the coronavirus in the Dominican Republic.
“Special for him,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “Really special, and that means a lot. He’s a family guy. He’s been put through the ringer along with other family members…. We’ve turned him into our family, and everybody’s really supportive of him and just so happy for what he’s accomplished.”
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