TORONTO — If it looked as if things were falling apart in the 10th for the Tampa Bay Rays, it was because, well, they were. An infield single and a throwing error, and a bad bounce on a bunt back to the mound, and the Blue Jays had runners on the corners with no one out and the Rays trying to protect a one-run lead.
“We've seen those get away from us before,” Evan Longoria said.
So manager Joe Maddon made a slow walk to the mound to give his team a chance to calm down, told his players to forget the double play, don't let the guy on third score, and allow Brad Boxberger to get back to work.
Seven pitches later, the Rays were shaking hands, having held on for a 2-1, 10-inning victory that gave them the series win.
“We're happy. We're uplifted, because we still have a chance for a sweep of this series,” starting pitcher Chris Archer said, referring to the Rays' protest of Saturday's 5-4 loss, also in 10 innings.
The decision on that will come early this week.
What is known today is the Rays continue to bounce back from tough losses as they try to claw their way up the wild-card standings.
Boxberger, who allowed a game-changing two-run homer Saturday, shrugged off the less-than-ideal start to the 10th inning and closed it rather quickly.
“You can't let a little weak hit spiral the inning out of control,” Boxberger said. “Two weak hits kind of turned the inning into something I didn't want it to be.”
Boxberger got Jose Reyes to foul out on the first pitch, with Longoria making a running catch in front of the third-base stands.
“That was huge, especially with (Melky) Cabrera coming up,” Logan Forsythe said. “To get that out was big.”
Boxberger got Cabrera to pop out to Forsythe at second base on the next pitch, then struck out Nolan Reimold to end the game.
“It takes a guy making pitches to get out of that situation,” Longoria said.
It was, as Archer said, an uplifting win, because for most of the afternoon the Rays were doing everything they could to lose. At one point, they were 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position, and six of the nine runners they left on base were stranded on either second or third base, or both, as was the case in the ninth inning, when they had runners at second and third and one out.
The Rays found themselves in that situation again in the 10th inning, only this time there were no outs. Ben Zobrist drew a leadoff walk against Jays reliever Sergio Santos. Forsythe then drove a line drive to right field that Reimold missed. The ball bounced into the seats for what was eventually scored a two-base error.
“I thought it was going to be either caught on the line or it's going to go foul,” Forsythe said. “Luckily, it got down for us. It worked in my odds this time.”
Longoria then singled through the left side of the infield to score Zobrist. Forsythe tried to score but was tagged out by Dioner Navarro. Maddon asked the umpires to review the play to see if Navarro was blocking the plate. Replay officials in New York ruled he was not.
So, instead of leading by at least two in the bottom of the inning, Boxberger was pitching with a one-run lead.
Leadoff hitter Juan Francisco hit a slow roller to the right side that Forsythe fielded on the run. His throw to first got past James Loney, who was charged with the error.
“That's a tough play for me and Lone, cause that's one of those in-between ones,” Forsythe said. “We've talked about it before, in that situation I got to get it and go.”
Munenori Kawasaki bunted back to the mound. The ball took a big bounce on the AstroTurf and Boxberger couldn't make the play.
“It had some spin on it and got up on me quicker than expected,” Boxberger said. “It's pretty much a trampoline that we were playing on.”
That's when Maddon went to the mound to calm the troops.
“I was kind of in my own world. I really don't even know what he said, to be honest with you,” Longoria said.
Maddon joked that the low-key Boxberger was yawning when he reached the mound.
“That's his demeanor,” Forsythe said. “He stays pretty calm on the mound. He throws what he's comfortable throwing.”