Adventures in fielding: Trop's quirks pop up
Kotchman, Andrus lose track of fly balls during Game 3
ST. PETERSBURG -- Tropicana Field's roof has quirks, if not imperfections. Popups and fly balls can easily get lost in the lights, and if they're hit high enough, they can bounce off the support beams and catwalks.
Twice in Texas' 4-3 American League Division Series win over the Rays on Monday, the white roof made trouble: once for the Rays, another time for the Rangers. The outcome wasn't deeply impacted either time -- although it easily could have been in the latter instance -- but if ever Tropicana's dimensions could cause controversy, it would be in the spotlight of the postseason.
"It's just one of those things that you know you've got to deal with when you play here," said Rays first baseman Casey Kotchman, who lost Ian Kinsler's foul pop on the first play of the game before recovering for the out. "Everybody does. It just got lost in the lights or the rafters or something."
In one sense, fielding fly balls at Tropicana Field is similar to playing balls off the Green Monster at Boston's Fenway Park -- the home team has at least a theoretical advantage.
"Probably, yeah, because they don't get as many repetitions up there," Kotchman said. "It's not something that really comes into play a whole lot, it's just that particular time that I just lost it."
The left side of the Rangers' infield was at disadvantage, then, in the seventh inning. Pinch-hitting with the bases loaded and his team trailing, 4-1, Tampa Bay's Sean Rodriguez hit a fly down the left-field line that went well foul -- and off a catwalk. Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre and shortstop Elvis Andrus both gave chase, and both overran the ball. Andrus was close enough that the ball went off his glove as he leaned backwards, right near the Rangers' bullpen.
No error was charged, and Rodriguez later plated one run on a groundout, cutting Texas' lead to 4-2.
"I lost the ball," Andrus said. "I saw it pretty good when I was running after it, but when I looked to see how far I was away from the wall, I lost it."