Kubitza has uneven big league debut
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — It was an eventful major league debut for third baseman Kyle Kubitza, who cost the Angels a run with a mental error in the field, may have cost another run with a baserunning blunder and smoked a line drive into center field for his first major league hit Wednesday night.
And that was all in the first 21⁄ innings of the An
2 gels’ 4-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays in Tropicana Field.
“Kyle will bounce back,” Manager Mike Scioscia said. “This guy has a chance to be a really good player. It’s his first game in the big leagues. There’s always little things you do that you learn from, and he had a couple of those tonight.”
Kubitza, called up Wednesday from triple A to replace the injured David Freese, said he was nervous.
“You grow up watching these games; hopefully I can calm down enough to put some good swings on some balls,” Kubitza said before the game. “First impressions are always the greatest. Hopefully, I can play my game and not try to do too much.”
Kubitza looked good at the plate, getting a seventh-
inning single to right field to go with his third-inning hit, but there was a rough-around-the-edges feel to the rest of his game.
With two runners on and two outs in the second inning, Tampa Bay’s Kevin Kiermaier hit a runscoring single to right field. Nick Franklin advanced to third base on the hit and Kiermaier to second on the throw.
Joey Butler followed with a hard grounder that Kubitza grabbed with a nice backhand stab. But instead of throwing across the diamond for the out, Kubitza tried to tag Kiermaier, who had run to within a few feet of Kubitza before retreating to second base.
By the time Kubitza threw to second baseman Johnny Giavotella, who tagged out Kiermaier, Franklin had crossed the plate. Because there was no force, Franklin’s run counted and gave the Rays a 2-0 lead.
“I threw it to second and just thought to myself, ‘ I don’t know what I’m doing,’ ” said Kubitza, who was acquired from Atlanta in the offseason and tabbed as Freese’s heir apparent in 2016. “I should have thrown to first. It was a bad baseball play.”
Even if the runner is close enough to tag, third basemen are taught to always throw to first on that play.
“It’s Baseball 101,” Scioscia said. “Second and third, the ball is hit to you, you know you have to get the out at first.”
C.J. Cron led off the third inning with a single and Kubitza followed with a sharp single to center field. Giavotella f lied to deep center, advancing Cron to third base.
Erick Aybar singled to right field to drive in Cron and Kubitza flew around second base with the intention of reaching third. But Kubitza saw a stop sign from third base coach Gary DiSarcina, jammed on the breaks, stumbled on his headfirst dive into second base and was tagged out as Aybar pulled into the base.
“I got a little overaggressive and tried to make a play,” Kubitza said. “I got caught in no-man’s land.”
It was the 27th out on the bases, not including caught stealing or pickoffs, this season for the Angels, tied for second-most in the American League.
Mike Trout followed with a runscoring single to right field to tie the score, 2-2, and Albert Pujols was hit by a pitch, but Kole Calhoun grounded out to end the inning.
“A couple things got away from him tonight, but we’ll take the positives,” Scioscia said of Kubitza. “He swung the bat OK, he got two hits. Hopefully, he’ll be a little more relaxed tomorrow.”
KEVIN KIERMAIER tracks down a liner by Albert Pujols in the eighth inning.