Ku­b­itza has un­even big league de­but

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS - By Mike DiGio­vanna

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.”

Chris O’Meara As­so­ci­ated Press

KEVIN KIER­MAIER tracks down a liner by Al­bert Pu­jols in the eighth in­ning.

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