The Rays haven't had much to celebrate this season.
So the mass explosion out of the dugout, the hugs, the high-fives and the other accompanying gestures were understandable Monday after Matt Joyce's fly-ball single gave them a 4-3 10-inning victory over the Red Sox that was their first walkoff win in more than three months.
"I knew it was a while," manager Joe Maddon said. "It's good to get that lovin' feeling back."
The victory, which improved the Rays to 67-71 but left them 81/2 back of the second American League wild card with 26 to play, was the product of many parts.
There was another good, though not as great, start by Drew Smyly. A clutch hit by Evan Longoria and an encouraging three hits from Wil Myers. A blown save by just-called-up reliever Steve Geltz. A third straight impressive outing, plus a key pickoff, by retooled Grant Balfour.
And there was a winning rally, started by, of all things, catcher Ryan Hanigan's speed, facilitated by Boston manager John Farrell's unconventional strategy to load the bases and capped by Joyce, hitless in four at-bats, winning the battle with ground-ball specialist Burke Badenhop to loft a ball over the outfield.
"I was just trying to see the ball up. That was the biggest thing," Joyce said. "Hit the ball in the air to leftfield, preferably far enough to where (Yoenis) Cespedes couldn't throw the guy out. … It worked out."
Hanigan got the Rays started in the 10th. He laced a ball into the leftfield corner and chugged to second, testing Cespedes' legendary arm. He slid in headfirst, the safe call standing after a replay challenge.
"When I came around first, I was already committed," Hanigan said. "It was obviously as close as it gets, really. But, hey, we got a call."
That set up a series of moves by Farrell that led to Joyce getting to the plate with the chance to hit into an inning-ending double play or win it before what was left of the small holiday crowd of 10,543.
The Sox walked rookie Kevin Kiermaier to set up a double play. Maddon made sure Ben Zobrist didn't comply by having him bunt the runners up. Farrell walked Myers to load the bases with one out to put the double play back in play, "looking for (Joyce) to put the ball on the ground."
Maddon understood the walk, Joyce not so much. "I was surprised that they walked 'KK,' and I was still surprised that they walked Wil," Joyce said. "But obviously I was excited about the opportunity and ready for that challenge."
Joyce paused for a moment before stepping in, gathering his thoughts. "I wanted to make sure I had the right approach, so I took an extra second to think about what I wanted to do, what I was looking for," he said.
The first pitch from Badenhop, who has gotten a majors-most 14 double-play grounders, was a sinker but up just enough that Joyce could loft it deep enough that Cespedes merely turned his back, setting off the kind of celebration last seen May 24, also against the Red Sox.
"Those are always fun," Hanigan said. "Building off momentum like that when we get wins like that is huge. I think everyone enjoys it. It kind of loosens everyone up a little. The clubhouse is feeling good. A little celebration, so that's always good. But we split the series; we've got to win series from here on out."
Contact Marc Topkin at [email protected]. Follow @TBTimes_Rays.