CHICAGO — The Rays figured it was going to take something odd or unusual to change their luck and their string of six losses to start the season.
And they certainly got it Friday, starting the day with stunning news that Manny Ramirez had retired after a failed drug test and ending it in celebration after a five-run ninth-inning explosion, capped by Dan Johnson's three-run homer, that gave them a 9-7 win over the White Sox.
"When you play it hard and you play it right, good things can happen, and that's what happened tonight," manager Joe Maddon said. "You had an entire team participating in a victory."
The Rays still were technically the last team without a win, but that ended shortly after 11 p.m. as they gathered near the mound to shake hands for the first time this season.
"There's no feeling like it," Johnson said, "It makes everything better."
Victory seemed unlikely the way the game unfolded on another cold and damp Chicago evening (first-pitch temperature 44 degrees), as the Rays trailed 3-0 by the third, 4-1 after the fourth and 7-4 in the ninth.
James Shields, the Rays' No. 2 starter who looked so sharp in his season-opening turn, looked more like the 2010 edition, allowing three solo homers. And catcher Kelly Shoppach left the game with a sore right knee, though he is said to be okay.
But what looked early like just a few signs of hope — their first bloop hit of the season, by Johnson to end his 0-for-24 skid, a Sean Rodriguez squeeze bunt that hugged the line and stayed fair — became signs of things to come.
Two errors by the White Sox set the ninth inning in motion, one run scoring on shortstop Alexei Ramirez's errant throw, another after leftfielder Juan Pierre botched a fly ball. Then Johnson stepped up, against lefty Matt Thornton, and delivered. "It was just like a release," Johnson said. "Like, whoa, thank you.'
Of the 10 homers Johnson has hit for the Rays, starting with the dramatic 2008 blast in Boston, six have produced the tying or go-ahead runs.
"That's what he does," Maddon said. "He has the propensity to hit the home run when you really need it, and he did it again tonight."
The Rays not only snapped their losing streak, but their run as the team going deepest into a season without holding a lead. The only team, since 1900, to get through six games was the 1992 Tigers, who took their first lead in the seventh inning of their seventh game.
The nine runs were a season-high (one more than in their first six games total) as were the 10 hits as they also snapped the streak, longest in the majors since at least 1919, of consecutive games to start a season without getting more than six hits.
"It was a different attitude today," Johnson said. "One of those things where we were really loose in the clubhouse before the game and we took it into the dugout, and I thought we played really well out there, we stayed positive and we kept battling."