In a season where little has gone right for the Tampa Bay Rays, one of the luckiest hits one of their players ever will get doesn't even count, other than for kicks.
Matt Joyce, working on his swing during batting practice Thursday, somehow hit a ball back into the pitching machine that a Rays staffer was feeding for him. Joyce popped a pitch that deflected off the underside of the batting cage's canopy and the ball dropped, improbably, into an opening on the machine. And his trick shot was nothing but net, were there a net. Humorously, the machine almost immediately shot back another pitch at Joyce, who was startled and unprepared to take another hack.
The phrase, "You couldn't do that again if you tried" needs to be saved for moments like this. Manager Joe Maddon and hitting coach Derek Shelton can be seen behind the cage, apparently amused and possibly confused at what happened.
Joyce went 1 for 4 in the Rays' 3-0 victory against the Houston Astros, a rare positive result for them lately. Tampa Bay is 29-45 after winning at least 90 games in five of the past six seasons and making the playoffs four times.
Joyce is batting .266/.353/.389 with three homers in 241 plate appearances, making for an adjusted on-base plus slugging of 111. A little below average for Joyce, whose production has stagnated since a breakthrough 2011 season. But if he ever tires of being a baseball player, perhaps trick-shot artist is in his future. Is that a marketable skill? The Rays at least need to pass around a hat for tips so he can get credit for his unlikely pitching machine stunt.
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