ST. PETERSBURG -- A walk from a guy who doesn’t walk anyone, a hit batter with the bases-loaded, a three-run homer all in the first inning, could the afternoon have gone any worse for David Price and the Tampa Bay Rays?
Ah, but then came the night.
The ball thrown into center field, Cole Figueroa racing home from second base, his teammates racing out of the dugout to celebrate, can mean only one thing around here -- walk-off.
The Rays did it again Saturday when they outlasted the Boston Red Sox, winning 6-5 in 15 innings when Sox reliever Andrew Miller threw a comebacker by Desmond Jennings into center field, allowing Figueroa to score.
It was the third straight walk-off win for the Rays, a first in franchise history and the first in the major leagues since the Philadelphia last August, according to Elias.
“It’s rare, but we were due for a couple,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “We had so many opportunities the previous homestand to do things this and were unable to do so, so the last three days we were able to get that little bit of a mojo going again. That really means a lot. When you start feeling and learning how to win games late, that can propel you.”
That feeling has been hanging around Tropicana Field since Thursday night, when the Rays were one strike away from being swept by Oakland then won on a three-run homer by Sean Rodriguez in the 11th inning.
It showed up again Friday, when Figueroa doubled home Jennings in the ninth inning for a 1-0 win against the Red Sox.
And it was there Saturday, even after the Red Sox scored five first inning runs off David Price.
“This team just doesn’t quit,” Price said. “I put them in a 5-0 hole before we got a chance to swing the bats.”
How about that early deficit?
“We don’t talk about it. We just know we don’t ever get down,” James Loney said. “We’re not sobbing in (the dugout), crying.”
“We knew we had our horse out there,” Brandon Guyer said. “He gave up early runs, but I think we all expected he would go out there and shut them out like we did. He doesn’t quit, ever. We knew we had to get some runs and back him up, and we did that.”
Price rebounded well, allowing one hit and one more walk for the next seven innings. Enter Jake McGee, Grant Balfour, Brad Boxberger and Cesar Ramos, who pitched three innings to earn the victory, and the Rays held the Red Sox to six base runners the rest of the way.
“David Price permitted it,” Maddon said. “It was a tough first inning. Easily could have given in or caved in but came back and pitched extremely well, beyond extremely well.”
The Rays began chipping away at Sox starter Jake Peavy in the second inning when Guyer singled and eventually scored on a sac fly by Logan Forsythe. The two combined for another run in the fourth inning when Guyer doubled and scored on a single by Forsythe,
An RBI single by Joyce and a two-run double by Guyer in the fifth inning made it a 5-5 game.
It remained 5-5 for a very long time. The game lasted 5 hours, 16 minutes.
“One run, all we do is score one,” Loney said, “and one is kind of hard sometimes.”
Guyer said he was running up to the clubhouse between innings to eat energy bars. Ice cream was served in the dugout during the 14th inning.
“Towards the end there it was getting kind of weird,” Guyer said. “I knew eventually we would (score). I knew we’d come through. That just shows the battle of the team and what we’re all about.”
Loney singled to start the 15th inning. Figueroa entered as a pinch-runner. Guyer bunted for a single. Jennings then hit the ball back to Miller, who spun and threw the ball past second base and into center field.
“I was sitting around, so I was actually feeling good,” Figueroa said, “but I bet the rest of the guys were plenty happy I crossed the plate.”