ST. PETERSBURG — There was plenty of emotion on the field Saturday night as the Rays raced out of the dugout to swarm Yunel Escobar, whose 10th-inning walkoff single capped a rare late-inning comeback and an impressive 4-3 win over the Tigers.
"This is the game we've been talking about that we have to start winning, and we did it tonight against a really good team," manager Joe Maddon said. "The reason we're in somewhat of a hole, a little bit of a bunker, is because we've not been winning those games."
They won it Saturday, reaching the midpoint of the season 42-39, for several reasons: They kept it close against Tigers ace Justin Verlander; Luke Scott hit a tying homer in the eighth; relievers Alex Torres and Fernando Rodney did great work throwing two innings each; and James Loney started and Wil Myers extended the rally Escobar finished.
There was more emotion afterward, Tigers manager Jim Leyland taking issue with a high-and-tight Rodney pitch in the 10th to superstar Miguel Cabrera.
"That's not acceptable," Leyland said. "I don't care about throwing inside. But I don't like it up there. We will not tolerate that. You can take that to the bank. We won't tolerate that up to the head — to anybody.
"I'm not accusing anybody of anything, but we won't tolerate that. If you're going to just rear back and throw it, you can't throw it there. If you're throwing down at the legs, in or something, for a purpose, I don't have any problem with that, but not upstairs. That will cause a lot of problems for people."
Cabrera was seen yelling something at Rodney, then continued to chirp vehemently at the Rays dugout, but he didn't want to talk about it afterward.
Maddon said he was "surprised" at Cabrera's reaction and didn't know what the fuss was about.
Neither did Rodney, who said he was just trying to take care of business in opening the 10th against Cabrera, the menacing slugger who had hit two homers in a four-hit Friday. Rodney came up and in with a 98 mph fastball on a 1-and-2 count, then got Cabrera to strike out with a changeup.
"You know, it's my job. You can have fun when you hit a home run, you can have fun when it's a strikeout," Rodney said.
"You have to pitch inside sometimes. If you pitch, you have to protect the strike zone, you have to pitch inside, outside, everywhere. You don't want to hit nobody because the game is on the line. That's what I have in my mind. I try to move him a little bit because you know the guy is a dangerous hitter. I take advantage tonight with that."
The Rays were down 3-0 early in a somewhat shaky and short five-inning start by Chris Archer, but, despite several wasted chances, got back within 3-2 as Torres and Joel Peralta kept the Tigers down.
The Rays were 2-32 when trailing after seven innings, but Scott, one of the hitters the Rays are looking for more from with Evan Longoria sidelined at least a few days, delivered off Verlander with one out in the eighth to tie it. "Definitely gratifying," Scott said.
One-out singles by Loney and Myers set up the winning rally off Bruce Rondon, then after a wild pitch, Escobar finished it with two outs.
"It's great when you celebrate like that because it means you won," Escobar said with bench coach Dave Martinez interpreting. "But yeah, they hit me hard."
Marc Topkin can be reached at email@example.com. View his blog at blogs.tampabay.com/rays. Follow him on Twitter at @TBTimes_Rays.