Sunday, February 25, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays rally in ninth to beat Orioles

BALTIMORE — The once-comfortable lead was withering away, the closer was squirming around and the crowd was getting restless.

The Rays had seen this happen before, a few too many times already this season. But this time, they enjoyed the view because they were on the other side.

Down four runs after the opening frame, then stymied through the middle innings, the Rays did the ninth-inning rallying Saturday, scoring six times to leave the Orioles and closer Jim Johnson stunned with a 10-6 win.

"We've played that record way too many times already this season. It was nice to have it play in our favor," Rays manager Joe Maddon said.

"It's very big. Psychologically, it's good for us. It's happened to us recently, and I know what it feels like on the other side. There can be bumps and bruises and cuts and slashes, and stitches may be required. It's good to be able to beat them under those circumstances because this guy is that good."

The key to the Rays comeback was a one-out bases-loaded double by Matt Joyce — part of his career-high-matching five-RBI afternoon — that put them ahead 7-6. But they wouldn't have been in position to win the game without the contributions of Alex Torres, the Thursday callup who worked four scoreless and hitless relief innings on a day when struggling starter Roberto Hernandez was pulled in the third.

"Alex Torres was totally the star of the game," Maddon said. "Of course, we did the nice things in the last inning, but it does not happen without what Alex did."

The players anointed Joyce and Torres co-players of the game, and in absence of the Captain Morgan lamp that gets lit during victory celebrations at home, Joyce allowed Torres the honors Saturday — using the remote to turn on a clubhouse TV.

"That was awesome," Torres said.

When Torres came in to pitch the fifth, the Rays down 6-4, Joel Peralta told bullpen coach Stan Boroski that if Torres gave them three good innings, they would win.

"He gave us four really good innings — and we did win the game," Peralta said. "That was awesome."

Though the Rays (22-20) had already decided by Saturday morning to give Jake Odorizzi the Monday start in Toronto, Torres showed what he had been doing so well at Triple A and what he could do for them.

"When you have the kind of confidence I have right now, everything's going to be good," Torres said. "I can throw my pitches in any count. I'm just feeling great with my stuff right now."

Joyce wasn't feeling particularly confident after his first at-bat, coming into the dugout after pulling a ball hard to the right side into the usual overshift for a groundout and telling Maddon he was going to try to hit the ball to leftfield.

Maddon told him no, to "be you, stay who you are, keep doing what you're doing, hit the ball hard. They'll find holes."

Good coaching. Joyce hit a two-run homer — to right — in his next at-bat, then doubled in a run in the fifth. In the ninth, after Kelly Johnson homered to get them within 6-5, Joyce came up with the bases loaded and lined a ball just over second baseman Ryan Flaherty's reach — "Just high enough," Joyce said — to put the Rays ahead and chase Johnson, who blew his second straight save after converting 35 straight in regular-season play and helped end the Orioles' streak of 109 straight wins when leading after seven (seven shy of the record set by the Yankees in 1998-99). Ben Zobrist added a two-run double and Luke Scott a bases-loaded walk to make sure.

"Things really haven't gone our way in later innings the first couple months," Joyce said. "So for us to turn it around and do it to another team who has a really good bullpen and one of the best closers in the game, man, it's awesome.

"That's a real testament to the guys on this team and not giving up."

 
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