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Evan Longoria drives in go-ahead run as Tampa Bay Rays beat Toronto Blue Jays 2-1

ST. PETERSBURG — There was a lot that went into Wednesday's series-winning 2-1 victory over the Blue Jays that kept the Rays within a game of first place.

Certainly the eight solid innings from David Price, who earned his 16th victory. A half-dozen dazzling defensive plays, plus a heads-up backup by Carl Crawford. Sean Rodriguez's tying home run. Evan Longoria's eighth-inning single for the winner. Rafael Soriano's work for his major-league-leading 40th save.

But don't discount the post Rays manager Joe Maddon put on his Twitter account last week.

Before the final out was made Wednesday, Maddon and the Rays had reason to pause — and flash back to the Aug. 5 catwalk calamity against the Twins — as John Buck's soaring fly ball to deep leftfield seemed to tempt fate before settling into Crawford's glove.

"I was hoping it didn't hit the catwalk," Crawford said.

Maddon had the same concern, knowing it would have been a two-run homer if it had. But Maddon had the power of positive Tweeting on his side.

Feeling bad about the derogatory comments he made last month about the Trop after losing as a result of Jason Kubel's pop fly hitting a catwalk, Maddon used 135 characters to post on the Twitter social media service to say he had "since apologized" and that he and the stadium were now "on much better terms."

And Wednesday night, he said it worked.

"I have made amends with the building, and I have promised not to whine again, and I think because of that, that's why the ball missed something," Maddon said. "It was going to hit something, but it missed something. I think I actually saw the catwalk move several inches to avoid that ball."

With their 82nd win of the season, the Rays became the fifth franchise (and seventh team) to post three straight winning seasons after 10 or more with losing records, the first since the 1969-81 Expos.

Of more current relevance, they remained one game behind the Yankees for the American League East lead, and seven ahead of the Red Sox in the wild-card race, with 29 remaining.

"I think we earned that win tonight," Maddon said.

Price, after a shaky two-walk first, was impressive in running his team-record wins total to 16 on his fourth try, allowing only four hits (though helped immensely by the defense) while striking out seven, with 75 of his 107 pitches for strikes. "Unbelievable," Rodriguez said. "That's the Price we've come to know and love right there."

An exchange of fifth-inning homers by Buck and Rodriguez, who extended his own dominance of Jays starter Shaun Marcum to six consecutive hits, left the game tied at 1.

And as they often do, the Rays rallied in the eighth, pushing their remarkable scoring margin in that inning to 103-47. Ben Zobrist, pinch-hitting for debuting rookie Desmond Jennings, started it with a one-out walk, then Crawford singled. Longoria, stung during his sixth-inning at-bat when a foul ball bounced up and struck the side of his head, struck back with a single to left.

"We battled all game, we've battled all year," Price said. "That's Rays baseball."

Soriano finished, surviving a one-out laser from Vernon Wells that eluded centerfielder B.J. Upton but was only a triple — and not an inside-the-park homer — because of Crawford's hustle to back up the play. Soriano came back to strike out Adam Lind on a 96 mph fastball, then waited, like everyone else, for Buck's fly ball to come down.

"It was fun to watch up until that play," Maddon said. "Then it became fun again."

Marc Topkin can be reached at topkin@sptimes.com.



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Evan Longoria drives in go-ahead run as Tampa Bay Rays beat Toronto Blue Jays 2-1 09/01/10 [Last modified: Thursday, September 2, 2010 9:30am]
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