Carlos Pena may have missed all the excitement of the 2011's Game 162, but he did a pretty good job of recreating its thrills upon his return to Tropicana Field on Friday.
Back with the Rays after a one-year stint in Chicago, Pena served as the main offensive force during a 7-6 comeback win over the Yankees on opening day. The first baseman's line was of the "not too shabby" variety: 3-for-5 with a grand slam and five RBI.
Boy, talk about a good day. Not only did Pena come up with Tampa Bay's two biggest hits, they also came off New York's two best pitchers. He tagged starter CC Sabathia for a first-inning grand slam (just after Yanks manager Joe Girardi ordered an intentional walk to Sean Rodriguez — whoops) and then hit the gamewinner off Mariano Rivera in the bottom of the ninth (a single to left field that scored Ben Zobrist from third).
While Pena struggled during spring training — he hit only .107 — his five RBI were enough to outscore 12 of the 14 teams that played an offensively-challenged slate on Thursday.
Check out both of Pena's clutch hits below:
Afterward, Pena immediately recognized the rarity of what he had done against Rivera. The Yankees closer had never blown a save on opening day and had converted 60 of 61 save opportunities against the Rays in his career. (His only blemish came in 2005.)
Said Pena of Rivera:
"He's the greatest closer in the history of the game and we all know that. He has that illusion in his ball. You swing where the ball is at and it's not there anymore."
The ball, however, was there on Friday. But only until Pena saw it and swung his bat.
Then it wasn't.
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