Rich Thompson is a 33-year-old rookie. He had one at-bat with the Kansas City Royals in 2004 -- a double-play grounder -- and toiled in the minors for eight more seasons before returning to the big leagues this month with the Tampa Bay Rays. In short, he's straight out of central casting for the Dan Johnson-style hero who has enjoyed fairytale star turns for the franchise since 2008.
Thompson's moment arrived in the ninth inning Wednesday night, with the Rays and Baltimore Orioles tied 2-2. His livelihood is speed, and he entered as a pinch-runner after Jeff Keppinger singled with one out.
Thompson was in the game to steal second base, and Baltimore manager Buck Showalter called a pitchout at precisely the right time -- a 1-2 count on Evan Longoria. Thompson, though, had a great jump and slid in safely. Actually, let's amend that: Fieldin Culbreth called him safe. He looked out. But that's Joe Maddon baseball in September, right? Take risks. Catch breaks. Win games.
Sure enough, ...