ST. PETERSBURG — Though 1B Carlos Peña did not earn the final spot on the American League All-Star team in the special online vote, he said he was humbled, flattered and grateful for the fans' support.
Peña, who finished fourth on the five-man ballot, said the only way he could thank the fans is by giving "my heart out there every single day."
Peña did a little more than that Thursday, delivering the biggest hit of the game, a two-run double down the leftfield line in the fifth that gave the Rays the lead for good in their 3-2 victory.
"That," RHP Grant Balfour said, "was the difference-maker."
Peña came up with the bases loaded and one out against RHP Roy Halladay. He fell behind 1-and-2 before slapping a double just inside the foul line.
"He actually made an unbelievable pitch. I think it was a changeup low and away, and I stayed with it," Peña said.
Peña snapped a season-long stretch of 12 games without an RBI. Peña, who also had a bunt single to third base in the first, said going to the opposite field is a good sign for a "good approach."
Halladay called it "good hitting," saying it wasn't a bad pitch, just a little more up than he wanted.
"It's tough," Halladay said. "A couple inches, it's foul and you get another chance."
Peña, 31 said he hopes to have a few more chances at an All-Star appearance, which would be "unbelievable." But he was also moved by the fans' support.
"The fans have shown me so much love here in St. Petersburg and worldwide," Peña said. "Just to know that they consider me an All-Star and they consider me their All-Star, it's so flattering to me."
Tigers 3B Brandon Inge won the final spot with about 11.8 million votes followed by Ian Kinsler (Rangers), Chone Figgins (Angels), Peña and Adam Lind (Jays).
In the National League, Phillies CF Shane Victorino received about 15.6 million votes followed by the Giants' Pablo Sandoval, Diamondbacks' Mark Reynolds, Dodgers' Matt Kemp and Nationals' Cristian Guzman.
STEPPING UP: Balfour, who blew his first save of the season Wednesday, bounced back in a big way Thursday, getting out of a bases-loaded jam in the seventh.
Balfour entered with one out after Lind hit an RBI single to make it 3-2. He got Kevin Millar to pop out to second and Vernon Wells to fly out to center.
"It feels good. I'm just trying to get the job done," Balfour said.
"Some days, it's not as easy as others."
Twelve of Balfour's past 13 appearances have been scoreless.
Said Rays manager Joe Maddon: "Grant set it up. He got us out of a pretty tough jam right there and permitted us to get that win. That was great pitching."
WEB GEMS: The Rays made a few great defensive plays, including another over-the-shoulder grab by CF B.J. Upton.
But LF Carl Crawford might have had the best, a running catch in the ninth when he raced to the line to rob John McDonald of potential extra bases.
"Most leftfielders don't make that play," Maddon said. "He just outran it, and that's not an easy play. He made it look relatively easy."
ON THE MEND: 2B Akinori Iwamura, rehabbing from knee surgery, played catch on the field Thursday. Maddon said Iwamura might join the team on a post-All-Star break road trip to Kansas City to get more agility work with the training staff.
MISCELLANY: RHP Dan Wheeler became the eighth Ray to record a save this season. … The Rays will host Bright House Sports Networks' All-Star Dad Father's & Kids Experience from 9 to 11:30 a.m. Saturday at Tropicana Field. RF Gabe Gross and RHP Lance Cormier will attend. Cost is $15 for dad and up to four kids. Register at www.allstardad.com. … The Rays have won five of their past six one-run games and are 11-14 overall in them.
Joe Smith can be reached at [email protected]