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S-Rod, Rays turn tables on Red Sox with late HR

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Published:   |   Updated: March 18, 2013 at 03:50 PM
BOSTON -

Fernando Rodney vs. Jarrod Saltalamacchia in the ninth inning with the Rays ahead by a run. Where did we see that before? Oh, right, Saturday night when Saltalamacchia won the matchup with a long home run that sent the Rays walking to their clubhouse where they hung their heads and dressed quietly.

Except that's not what really happened.

Oh, the Rays were not pleased to have lost to the Red Sox in such a stunning fashion Saturday — Rodney blowing his first save of the season — but the mood inside their cramped clubhouse was anything but funereal.

The room was quiet for as long as it took some of the Rays to say, "We'll get 'em tomorrow. We'll win this series."

Those words came from Carlos Peña, Luke Scott and B.J. Upton and were repeated around the room until someone found the TV remote and turned on the Celtics-Sixers playoff basketball game.

Which brings us back to Rodney-Saltalamacchia II, taking place on a brilliant Sunday afternoon and made possible by an equally stunning two-run homer by Sean Rodriguez in the top of the ninth inning that gave the Rays the lead.

Rodney said Saturday's blown save was the furthest thing from his mind and pitched like it, too. He retired the Red Sox catcher this time on a grounder to shortstop as he finished the Red Sox in order to save the 4-3 victory, helping the Rays take two of three on this quick trip to Boston.

"I thought that was fabulous. I love that moment right there," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "That couldn't have been more perfect than (Rodney) had to come in and get him out, and then strike, strike, strike, strike, strike.

"He threw strikes and then the punch-out to end the game."

The win, coupled with Baltimore losing, moved the Rays back into a tie for first place with the Orioles in the AL East.

"That's pretty good," Upton said. "It says a lot about this group that we're resilient, keep fighting, and play to win."

With so many players on the disabled list and all new faces playing larger-than-anticipated roles, the Rays will take the field this Memorial Day afternoon against the Chicago White Sox with a share of first place.

"Regarding all the different baseball adversities we've felt to this point, I think that is pretty phenomenal," Maddon said.

The Rays had a two-run lead until the seventh inning Sunday when Adrian Gonzalez lifted an opposite-field fly ball off Jeremy Hellickson down the left-field line that just cleared the Green Monster for a three-run homer.

The Red Sox had a chance to add to their lead in the eighth inning when they loaded the bases with two outs, but Jake McGee got Gonzalez to ground out to short.

That moment proved big when Ben Zobrist drew a leadoff walk in the ninth against Red Sox closer Alfredo Aceves, who entered the game having closed out nine straight save opportunities.

Aceves got Luke Scott to pop up to second base, then up stepped Rodriguez, who was 0-for-8 in his career against him. He turned on a 3-1 fastball and sent it over the Monster and onto Lansdowne Street.

"There wasn't a guy in here that doubted that we could come back out here and win (Sunday)," Rodriguez said.

Even after Gonzalez's home run? Hellickson had allowed only four hits through six innings but surrendered the lead on a leadoff walk to David Ortiz, a single to Kevin Youkilis and the home run. It happened in the space of 11 pitches.

"That's the one thing we do well here, whether we're down one, two, three (runs). As long as there's a couple of outs left on the board, we still feel like we have a chance to win," Rodriguez said.

Rodney struck out Daniel Nava to end the game, turned and fired his imaginary arrow over the Green Monster and accepted a bear hug from catcher Jose Molina.

The Rays returned to the tiny visitors' clubhouse much cheerier than they had the night before. The strobe light that travels with the team was spinning, music was blasting and players were dancing.

"Every team wants to win, obviously," Rodriguez said. "We try to really encourage how much fun it is. We're going to have fun whether we win or lose, but were going to have even more fun when we win."

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