Left-hander J.P. Howell of the Tampa Bay Rays made what manager Joe Maddon called an "impossible" play to retire Colby Rasmus on a broken-bat blooper into no-man's land. Few other pitchers could have pulled it off, Howell said, because they don't regularly wrestle with his pet Portuguese water dog, Rosie. Naturally.
Howell's play to get Rasmus helped the Rays escape the seventh inning with a one-run lead in what became a 3-0 victory against the Blue Jays on Sunday. And if Howell doesn't get Rasmus, who was about to drive in a runner from third base, who knows?
''That's the play of the year,'' Maddon said after the Rays' fifth straight win. ''It's an impossible play to make and (Howell) did it.''
With a runner on third and two outs, Rasmus got jammed severely and busted his bat, but the ball traveled — seemingly — into no-man's land among three fielders on the first-base side of the pitcher's mound. Rasmus was going to get a single out of it. With nobody else in range to make a play, Howell charged and tracked down the ball and, falling toward right field, made an off-balance throw that first baseman Carlos Peña barely had to move his mitt for in order to catch.
A right-handed pitcher definitely has a harder time making that play, and no pitcher should be expected to pull it off. But J.P. did, and some of the credit goes to Rosie Howell, who apparently is her owner's best workout partner:
''I wrestle with my dog a lot so that's good; it gets me that angle to just throw it,'' Howell said. ''The position guys do it all the time so I probably made it look harder than it really is. It's one of those things where the timing was good; if the guy's a little faster he beats that out so everything worked out. A little luck was included.''
The dog is absolutely adorable, as this Fox Sports video demonstrates:
Before this season, Howell's career had been somewhat in doubt after years of injuries and diminished effectiveness, but the Rays have stuck with him and he's performed well out of the bullpen. Rosie stuck with Howell, too. That's what dogs do.
Pitchers and hitters will argue 'til the end of time, at least until Bud Selig retires: Do the line drives that get caught even out with the bloopers that fall in? The answer might lie in some kind of wizardry The Fangraphs Kids publish, so in the meantime we'll have to decide on a case-by-case business. Howell, with the help of Rosie the Portuguese water dog, enacted some justice on the part of his fellow pitchers.
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