ARLINGTON, TX – SEPTEMBER 30: Tampa Bay’s Sam Fuld steals third base against Adrian Beltre of the Texas Rangers in the ninth inning of the American League Wild Card tiebreaker game at Rangers Ballpark.(Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

By Scott Barancik, editor

When defensive replacement Sam Fuld singled to open the 9th inning of Monday night’s tiebreaker against the Texas Rangers, you just knew he wasn’t going to passively run the bases.

It was a perfect Fuldian storm. With the Rays up by a slim 4-2 margin and a Wild Card slot on the line, the stakes were huge. And the Rays needed a morale boost: hostage to a boisterous Texas crowd, facing a team that had beaten them in the 2011 A.L. Wild Card game, Tampa Bay had lost at least one run in the 7th inning when umpires wrongly ruled that Rangers outfielder Leonys Martin had fairly caught rather than trapped a fly ball off the bat of Delmon Young.

Fuld‘s psychology also was at play. A 31-year-old utility player with a .199 batting average, the Stanford alum and father of two knows he remains a Major Leaguer primarily because of his stellar defense and heads-up, aggressive baserunning.

But no one could have predicted what “Super Sam” ended up doing next.

After the Rays’ Wil Myers advanced him to second base on a groundout, Fuld waited until the count on teammate Ben Zobrist was 2-and-2 and then headed for third base while Rangers pitcher Tanner Scheppers was still deciding which pitch to throw. Fuld was halfway down the line before the reliever realized what was happening. (See the video here.) After Scheppers’ off-balance toss went wide, the runner scrambled to his feet and ran home to score.

As usual, Fuld’s seemingly instinctive risk-taking was based on solid research.

“I knew [Rangers third baseman Adrian] Beltre was nursing a bad hammy, so I thought he might be slow to cover at third,” Fuld told “It was loud all night, and with the noise, it might take Scheppers longer to hear that I was going. And I had heard and I’d seen that he had trouble throwing to bases. I had that all working in favor for me. So I figured, why not take a chance?”

The Rays face Cleveland in the Wild Card game on Wednesday (10/2/2013).

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