ST. PETERSBURG - Late Sunday afternoon, Carl Crawford said his sprained right wrist was sore enough that he hadn't been able to swing a bat yet. Monday afternoon, he felt comfortable enough to take batting practice with an eye on returning to the starting lineup tonight.
'It still hurts,' he said. 'It ain't like something magical was going to happen overnight.'
Maybe not, but Crawford came up with some magic of his own several hours later.
After entering the game as a pinch runner in the bottom of the ninth and scoring the tying run, Crawford gave the Devil Rays a 5-4 victory against Toronto by leading off the bottom of the 11th with a walk-off home run.
Crawford's drive to left-center off Brian Wolfe was just the second game-ending homer of the season for the Rays, and it couldn't have come from a more unexpected source. Even when he stepped into the batting cage Monday afternoon, Crawford was not swinging all-out; he favored his wrist, just testing it out.
When forced to hit in the 11th, the Rays' bench already empty, he unsuccessfully attempted to bunt before admittedly looking for a walk with a 3-2 count. But Wolfe grooved one to him and he got just enough to send it out to one of the deeper parts of Tropicana Field. He wasn't sure it was gone until it cleared the fence.
'No way, because I never hit home runs that way - I was hoping it could be a base hit, a triple or something,' Crawford said. 'Trust me, when it went out, I was just as surprised as you guys were.'
The adrenaline borne of that swing and the head-slapping mob of teammates that met him at home plate helped ease the pain of the wrist problem Crawford figures he'll have to deal with all season.
'It feels good right now,' Crawford said.
Added manager Joe Maddon: 'I declare him officially well.'
If Crawford returns to the lineup full time by tonight, as expected, perhaps the Rays will have an easier time taking advantage of the solid pitching that has suddenly come their way.
Though Tampa Bay trailed from the top of the first through the top of the ninth Monday, starter Andy Sonnanstine and five relievers kept the Rays within striking distance. Coming back from deficits of 2-0, 3-1 and 4-2, the Rays drew within a run at 4-3 in the eighth when B.J. Upton posted his fifth homer since the All-Star break, then tied it with a manufactured run in the ninth.
Jonny Gomes, who earlier had crushed a 465-foot home run - the seventh-longest in the history of the Trop - worked a one-out walk off Toronto closer Jeremy Accardo. Crawford was summoned to run and stole second base. After Greg Norton flied out, moving Crawford to third, Josh Wilson pinch-hit for Dioner Navarro and punched a single up the middle to send it into extra innings.
The Rays - or, Brendan Harris, at least - believed they had the game won in the 10th. With Harris on second and Carlos Pena on first after a two-out intentional walk, Delmon Young skidded a grounder up the middle that was corralled just past the dirt by Toronto shortstop John McDonald. Harris was running on the play and tried to score but was thrown out easily.
It looked as if that might cost them the game when Scott Dohmann loaded the bases with one out in the top of the 11th, but he struck out Reed Johnson and got Lyle Overbay to fly to left to cap a string of 4 1/3 scoreless innings by Rays relievers on the evening. One run did score on the bullpen's watch, as Dan Wheeler opened his second stint with the Rays by allowing an RBI single to Johnson that scored the last of the four runs on Sonnanstine's ledger.
Sonnanstine worked at least six innings for the 10th time in 11 starts with the Rays, but he hasn't seen his consistency rewarded with a win since June 10. The drought isn't entirely his fault. Though he has received more run support overall than anyone in the rotation, the Rays have scored just six runs with Sonnanstine on the mound in his last four starts combined.
Monday, the offense came through big long after he departed.