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Rays need a lot to go right in ninth inning

ST. PETERSBURG — Dioner Navarro was looking for a pitch to put into play. Jason Bartlett was looking down the third base line as the potential winning run. Carlos Pena was just happy to be on second base and Cliff Floyd just wanted it over so he could ice the lump on his shin.

Justin Masterson wanted a ground ball double play to end the threat. He was the only one who didn't get what he wanted.

Navarro's game-winning single to center over a shortened outfield finished a bizarre bottom of the ninth in a 2-1 win over Boston that helped the Rays retain first place in the AL East on Tuesday night at Tropicana Field.

"A lot of things happen that lead to the run," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said.

Bartlett led off, fisting an 0-and-2 fastball into right, and Pena walked. But it wasn't as simple as all that. Pena had swung through a pitch for an apparent 1-and-2 count, but time had been called because a ball rolled into the infield from the Red Sox bullpen.

"I was like, 'Thank the Looooord,' " Pena grinned. "It was cool. I was really happy with that. They got it right."

Francona knew it too.

"I hoped they didn't (see time being called)," he said.

Pena eventually walked. The inning stalled momentarily when Evan Longoria first attempted to bunt, then struck out looking. Things seemed to stall further when Floyd fell behind 0-and-2. But Masterson's third pitch knifed inside, hitting Floyd on the shin and sending him staggering down to first base.

"That's the big moment, getting hit there with two strikes," Rays manager Joe Maddon said.

Did Floyd's right leg feel any better after he moved the winning run to third base?

"No," he quipped. "It felt better when (Navarro) hit the ball over (centerfielder Coco Crisp's) head and the game was over."

Navarro made that happen methodically, working ahead 2-and-0, taking a strike and swinging through another before getting defensive. His hit marked the fourth time in the inning a Ray reached with two strikes.

"It was to my advantage that the first four pitches of the at-bat I saw almost everything he had," he said. "I got a ball I could put up the middle deep enough."

But it wasn't as simple as all that.

Rays need a lot to go right in ninth inning 09/16/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, September 17, 2008 5:40pm]
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