IF Sean Rodriguez considers himself, above anything else, a baseball player.
So even though he had a pain in the left side of his chest, stemming from a bruised or strained muscle that made it painful for him to breathe, he offered to go in to play third base for the final three innings of Sunday's game.
Good thing for the Rays he did, because he ended up in the middle of the action and made a key play to get the final out.
With the Rays clinging to a 9-8 lead and the Orioles threatening with two on and two outs, Baltimore's Matt Wieters slapped a ball down the third-base line that would have scored both runs.
Rodriguez went to his right to snatch the ball, then fell to one knee before getting up to fire it across the field, with 1B Carlos Pena scooping for the final out.
"A tremendous play to end the game on both sides, not only the play by Sean but also the backside, the play by Carlos was spectacular," manager Joe Maddon said.
The Rays consider Rodriguez one of the best defensive players in the game and constantly heap praise on him. In fact, they say he is their best defensive second baseman and shortstop, and only a notch below Gold Glover Evan Longoria at third base.
Rodriguez didn't start Sunday due to the pain, figuring he was hurt diving for balls on Saturday, not on Friday's home plate collision with C Wieters.
--RHP James Shields led the Rays to a win after a loss for the fourth time this season and improved to 6-1, matching St. Louis' Lance Lynn for most wins in the majors. "That's a big win," Shields said. "We never like getting swept, so that was a big win. Hopefully we'll have some momentum going into Toronto these next two games."
--LF Desmond Jennings' sprained left knee has not improved in the last few days and the Rays are evaluating whether to place him on the DL. "Not quite yet, but we have to make a decision pretty soon," manager Joe Maddon. Jennings was injured last Sunday and pinch-hit as recently as Friday. Maddon said the Rays expected more progress by now.
--DH/OF Hideki Matsui moved one step closer to joining the Rays as he was promoted from extended spring training to Class AAA Durham. Matsui will be in Toronto on Monday, where the Rays play the Jays, but the team said that is coincidental, as he has to get his visa. He is expected to report to Durham on Tuesday.
--LHP Matt Moore had another rough start on Saturday, lasting only 4 1/3 innings in dropping to 1-5 with a 5.31 ERA through seven starts, but manager Joe Maddon said there has been do discussion about taking him out of the rotation or sending him back to Class AAA. "I think you just keep running him out there," Maddon said.
--CF B.J. Upton had a rough day Sunday, striking out in his first four at-bats to tie the team record, getting picked off first after a walk (though ending up safe at second), and coming up short as he tried to make what would have been a dazzling -- though he admitted, makeable -- catch at the wall in the seventh.
--C Chris Gimenez was charged with his third catcher's interference of the season, the most in a season in the majors since Mike Napoli had three in 2006. There have been only eight called in the majors this season.
BY THE NUMBERS: 30 -- Errors by the Rays in their first 35 games, including a team-record five on May 12. In 162 games last year, they made only 73.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We needed that. That's who we are." -- Manager Joe Maddon, after the Rays won Sunday's game with dazzling defense.