ST. PETERSBURG — There wasn't any question that Evan Longoria returned to the Rays on Tuesday healthy. The way he bounded down the dugout stairs seconds after the 3-2 win over the Blue Jays, filled a towel with chocolate whipped cream and raced back up to smear it in B.J. Upton's face while Upton was still doing the postgame interview with Todd Kalas pretty much took care of that.
"I saw him on the monitor, but it was too late for me to do anything," Upton said. "So I just stood there and wore it. What are you going to do at that point? He was pretty quick."
Upton enjoyed the unexpected taste treat — "Better to have in your mouth than shaving cream" — and he deserved it, hitting a two-run walkoff homer in the ninth to give the Rays (16-13) an unexpected victory before 10,248, the second-smallest crowd of the season.
For most of the night, the Rays looked like they did in the two games before Longoria went on the disabled list for a month with a strained left oblique: one run, a handful of hits and headed to defeat.
But, moments after the Lightning final score was flashed on the Trop scoreboard, they rallied, and almost as suddenly.
Ben Zobrist, having battled to a full count, sliced a single to left. Two pitches later, Upton ripped Jon Rauch's fastball 394 feet and over the leftfield wall.
"That seems to be the Tampa Bay way," said Upton, who has a Lightning No. 2 jersey hanging in his locker.
So, too, is getting contributions from unheralded players. Reliever Brandon Gomes, called up somewhat unexpectedly, made an impressive big-league debut, working a scoreless, and near-perfect, seventh and eighth.
"It was all made possible by Brandon Gomes," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "He did a hell of a job. … Those two innings he was really, really good."
Gomes, 26, wore the same boyish smile standing at his locker after the game as he did before, but he was all business on the mound, buzzing infielder John McDonald with his first pitch and allowing only a walk (with the runner then caught trying to steal) to the six hitters he faced.
"I love his attitude, in a positive way," Maddon said. "He was not affected. He looked the same tonight as I saw during camp."
Gomes didn't get the win (Kyle Farnsworth did), but he got the memory of his successful debut, and in front of his parents, Lynette and Paul, who flew down Tuesday afternoon from their Massachusetts home. (And, much to Brandon's amazement, got a good deal on tickets on short notice.)
"It was great," Gomes said.
And he got two souvenirs: the balls from his first out, which he'll give to his parents, and from the end of his first inning, which he left on the field after making the play at first and Longoria eventually retrieved for him, and he plans to keep.
"Everybody got a kick out of that," Gomes said.
The Rays were down on themselves after losing Sunday, letting a 5-0 lead get away after the unexpected bonus of the Angels scratching ace starter Jered Weaver. Tuesday was looking like a similarly missed opportunity, with Longoria back, Wade Davis starting, AL batting and home run leader Jose Bautista out of the lineup (neck spasms) and Jo-Jo Reyes, who hadn't won a game since 2008, on the mound.
It took until the ninth, but they found a way. And then they enjoyed it, especially Upton.
"It did taste good," he said.