TORONTO — Things didn't work out quite the way the Rays planned Thursday night, not with Troy Percival blowing his first save, with opportunities to retake the lead going unredeemed as extra innings mounted.
But they eventually still worked out, with Dan Wheeler and J.P. Howell pitching in, and a 13th-inning rally capped by Dioner Navarro's grand slam, for a road-trip-capping, potentially inspiring 8-3 win over the Jays.
"We had it, we gave it up and then we got it back," manager Joe Maddon said. "That's the kind of game, man, that, hey, if you lose that game going into tomorrow it's really rather devastating. But then again, when you win it with this kind of script, it can be something that catapults you in a positive way."
"We just kept battling, doing whatever we had to do to stay in that game," Navarro said. "This is big for us. I think it's gonna get us pumped up."
After eight stellar shutout innings from Edwin Jackson, who was aggressive from the start and "spectacular" for the night according to Maddon, the Rays (18-16) had a 3-0 lead with three outs to go.
But Percival, who had allowed just three baserunners (two hits and a walk) in starting the season with 11 scoreless innings, gave up three runs in the ninth.
"It was just one of those days where they beat me," Percival said. "I had good enough stuff to get through that inning."
He allowed a leadoff single to Scott Rolen, a one-out homer to Vernon Wells, a two-strike double to Lyle Overbay and an RBI-single to Aaron Hill.
"Percy just didn't get it done today, but that's going to happen," Maddon said. "But to his credit he did not let the fourth run get in."
The Rays won the game in the 13th, scoring five times on singles by Jason Bartlett and Akinori Iwamura, a sac fly by Carl Crawford and Navarro's grand slam. It was a familiar scene as ex-Ray Shawn Camp, now a Jays reliever, trudged off the mound after allowing the decisive runs.
But just as important, the Rays didn't lose the game in the 10th, when Wheeler did a masterful, and somewhat creative job, of pitching out of a severe threat.
"What Wheels did was nothing short of miraculous," Maddon said. "To pull that off in that inning the way it was set up was a tremendous piece of pitching on his part."
Alex Rios led off with a triple on a fly to left-center that eluded Jonny Gomes, who was playing because Crawford was the DH.
But Wheeler struck out Shannon Stewart, intentionally walked Rolen, then struck out Matt Stairs. That left two on and two out. Even Maddon, who had already made one trip to the mound so he couldn't go back out, wondered what was next. Wheeler decided to pitch around Wells in something of an unintentional intentional walk, with Navarro saving him at least twice by blocking pitches in the dirt. Then he struck out Rod Barajas.
A night that started with the first 14 Rays going down in order against former Trop bat boy Jesse Litsch ended a lot better 4 hours, 4 minutes later.
"I'm really pleased with the grit of the group," Maddon said.
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