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Let’s play two: Rays top O’s in 18 innings

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Published:   |   Updated: September 21, 2013 at 05:02 AM

ST. PETERSBURG - They broke out the rally caps in the 17th inning, but those didn’t work, so the props from their post-victory dance parties began to show up in the 18th inning.

The Chewbacca mask, favored by Luke Scott. The Gene Simmons mask and the replica high-heeled boots the KISS singer wears on stage, sported first by Matt Moore then Jamey Wright.

“We were about to bring the sax down,” backup catcher Chris Gimenez said. “We were running out of instruments to bring down. We had to win.”

“If it went 19 we were going to bring down the (postgame) spread,” Sam Fuld said of the meal customarily waiting on the team.

It didn’t go 19.

The Tampa Bay Rays won the longest game in their history in terms of innings and playing time when David DeJesus singled home Desmond Jennings from second base with the winning run at 2:05 a.m. on Saturday.

The 5-4, 18-inning victory against the visiting Baltimore Orioles in front of what began as a crowd of 21,247 at Tropicana Field took 6 hours, 54 minutes to play, making it also the longest game in Orioles history.

“That was the craziest seven hours of my life,” said Jeremy Hellickson, who was scheduled to start Sunday but pitched the final 2 1/3 innings to pick up the win.

The victory moved the Rays into sole possession of first place in the American League wild-card standings, a half-game ahead of the Cleveland Indians and one game ahead of the Texas Rangers.

“That’s probably the biggest win of the year for us,” said Jennings, who was scratched from the original lineup because of a stiff neck but entered as a pinch-hitter in the ninth inning and had two hits in four at-bats.

The Orioles are now three games out of the final playoff spot.

“I know it’s a cliché, road to October, that’s everything you play 162 games for,” Gimenez said. “I hope this is something we can take and run with. It couldn’t happen at a better time.”

On top of everything else, the Rays and Orioles have a quick turnaround. Today’s game, originally scheduled for 7:10 p.m., was moved to 1:05 p.m. for FOX television.

“There is so much energy at stake regarding winning,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “You (also) have to find energy after you lose that game. It’s an incredible boost. (Today) will tell the tale. We probably have a slight advantage because we do have that energy.”

The teams combined to use a major league-record 21 pitchers. The Rays tied the major league record by using 11.

The Rays used a club record 28 players.

There were 593 total pitches, including 301 by the Rays.

It was the first time the Rays won a game that lasted longer than 14 innings.

“You don’t want to play seven hours and lose,” Jennings said.

It was the 12th walk-off win of the season for Tampa Bay. DeJesus became the 10th different Ray to record a walk-off hit.

David Price started for the Rays and left after allowing a double in the sixth inning. He was followed by Wright, Jake McGee, Alex Torres, Brandon Gomes, Joel Peralta, Fernando Rodney, Jake Odorizzi, Cesar Ramos, Wes Wright and finally Hellickson.

Rodney pitched two perfect innings. Odorizzi, who pitched four innings for Durham on Tuesday in the Triple-A national championship game, allowed a hit and a walk in 3 2/3 innings.

Hellickson allowed just one hit during his stint.

All told, the Rays bullpen allowed three hits in 13 innings.

“It was fun. Everyone contributed,” Hellickson said. “Bullpen was unbelievable again. It’s nice to be a part of the bullpen.”

The Orioles’ pen was just as good, allowing one run on eight hits in 12 1/3 innings. They retired 17 straight Rays during one stretch.

Given the point of the season and what is at stake for both teams, neither manager was going to use a position player on the mound, especially with the expanded bullpens. That’s why a pair of starters (Hellickson and Baltimore’s Bud Norris) finished the game for both teams.

“I would have went as long as possible,” Hellickson said. “I’ll throw as many pitches as I needed to before a position player went out there.”

A marathon didn’t seem likely early as the Rays took a 3-0 lead after two innings. Back-to-back doubles by DeJesus and Ben Zobrist off former Ray Jason Hammel produced the first run and Zobrist came home on an error on Orioles first baseman Chris Davis.

Jose Molina made it 3-0 in the second inning when he legged out a double to the left field corner and continued his trip around the bases by tagging up on a pair of fly balls.

But the Orioles chipped away.

Price allowed nine hits and two runs in five innings plus one batter. He’s allowed 15 hits in 11 1/3 innings since his 127-pitch performance Sept. 10 against the Boston Red Sox.

The Orioles then took the lead with a two-run seventh.

The Rays tied it in to the bottom of the inning when Zobrist singled home Yunel Escobar.

The teams, and those who chose to stay and watch, settled in for a long night.

Jennings received treatment on his neck during the first several innings and entered the ninth inning as a pinch-hitter for Molina. He reached on an infield hit, too.

“What DJ did, coming in like that, dealing with that neck, hitting that double, scoring that run, he showed what kind of player he is,” Hellickson said.

Jennings doubled off Norris with one out in the 18th. Escobar drew a walk. DeJesus singled to right field, and Jennings scored easily, touching off an on-field celebration.

“That’s the biggest game for us, right there,” Jennings said. “Playing seven hours, it’s a different feeling if you come out on the losing side of that, just for the future, coming in (today). We came out with a win.

“Coming in (today) a little more amped, you know, a little more energy than maybe if we would’ve lost. So it was definitely a great feeling, a good win.”

Maddon said he loved the energy in the dugout as Friday turned to Saturday.

“It’s 2 o’clock in the morning and there was a lot of life on that bench,” Maddon said. “I don’t know if you saw our characters that came out postgame. KISS and Chewbacca flew in just for that moment.

“I’m really impressed with our guys’ ability to maintain that kind of enthusiasm for that many hours under the circumstances. I’m very proud of the group.”

DeJesus agreed with Jennings’ sentiments about needing to win after seven hours of work, especially at this point of the season.

“We pulled out all the characters, had a lot of stuff going on, but to pull a win in this type of atmosphere, it’s a great win for us,” DeJesus said, “and hopefully we can keep the momentum going until later on today.”

rmooney@tampatrib.com

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Twitter: @RMooneyTBO

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