ST. PETERSBURG — Tyler Sturdevant boarded his 9:30 a.m. flight to Tampa on Thursday knowing he was going to face the heart of the Red Sox order in the ninth inning of a one-run game, right?
"I wasn't thinking that specifically, no," Sturdevant said. "But I was thinking that every time you come up here you're available to pitch. So my mind-set coming in was I'm available to pitch, so whatever was going on in the outside I had to lock it in when the time comes."
Sturdevant was called up Thursday from Triple-A Durham to provide a fresh arm for a tired bullpen. He had to ignore the fact his bags were the last off the baggage carousel, and that the first Uber driver he booked never showed, further delaying his arrival at Tropicana Field for the finale of the four-game series.
The rookie reached the stadium 30 minutes before first pitch and patiently waited for his turn to play a starring role in the Rays' 2-1 victory.
It was the second one-run win for the Rays (54-72) against the Red Sox (71-56) in as many days and the second straight game they overcame a deficit. It also was their seventh win on the 10-game homestand.
"Man we needed a lot of things to come together for us to get that win," manager Kevin Cash said.
Mostly, they needed a pair of pitchers not often counted on during the ninth to get the last three outs, which they did when Sturdevant (two) and Enny Romero (one) combined to strike out the side.
But before it came down to those two, the Rays needed:
• A deep outing from Jake Odorizzi, who allowed a run in seven innings and improved to 6-0 in eight starts since the All-Star break.
• A run from the tag team of Evan Longoria (double) and Brad Miller (single) in the sixth.
• Mikie Mahtook's first hit in 14 games, an RBI double in the seventh that snapped an 0-for-34 slump.
The trick was protecting that lead with Brad Boxberger and Alex Colome unavailable due to their recent workloads.
Erasmo Ramirez pitched a scoreless eighth, giving up a pair of hits.
Then in the ninth, the Red Sox sent up three batters who had a combined 67 home runs this season — Hanley Ramirez (16), Jackie Bradley Jr. (21) and David Ortiz (30).
Sturdevant, 30, who last pitched for the Rays on July 6, faced Ramirez to start the ninth. He struck him out then remained in to face the left-handed hitting Bradley. The left-handed Romero expected to face Bradley, but Cash saved him for Ortiz, who would pinch-hit for Chris Young.
Sturdevant struck out Bradley, setting the stage for Romero vs. Ortiz.
With the numerous Red Sox fans in the crowd of 12,059 cheering for Big Papi, Romero calmly worked ahead in the count before buzzing Ortiz with a 98 mph fastball that was high and tight.
"I got a little scared in that moment. Ortiz is one of the best hitters I faced in my career," Romero said. "After that I throw a front door cutter. He took it."
Just the way Sturdevant envisioned it would turn out as he made his way from Charlotte, N.C, where the Bulls were playing, to the Trop.
As the game wore on, he had a feeling he would be counted on in a big moment, knew it would be time to lock it in.
"Get ready for the ninth inning and get ready to make pitches," Sturdevant said. "Those are the only things I can control."