ST. PETERSBURG — The fact that Carlos Peña's feet-first slide beat the tag of Mariners catcher Jesus Montero by inches was a fitting end for the Rays' wild 4-3 walkoff win in 14 innings Friday night.
"At that point, it was like 'Wow,' " Pena said. "Obviously, we were relieved."
They were also very fortunate on the final play. Ben Zobrist hit the double down the rightfield line, but knowing the strong arm of Ichiro Suzuki was out there, "I didn't think there was much of a chance" for Pena to score from first.
But Suzuki overthrew the cutoff man, second baseman Dustin Ackley, and the ball rolled to the right of the plate, giving Pena just enough time.
"When I hit third, my gas tank got on empty," Peña said after the 4-hour, 46-minute game. "I needed these legs to get me the last 70 feet. It might not have been the most graceful run from third to home, but it was effective."
The Rays (49-45) had several chances to end it earlier in front of 14,143 at Tropicana Field. They had a runner in scoring position with one out or less in the 10th, 11th and 12th innings but squandered the opportunity each time.
"Long game," manager Joe Maddon said. "If you're going to stick around that long, you've got to win it sometime, and we did."
Centerfielder B.J. Upton had a big night, putting Tampa Bay on the board with a solo homer in the sixth and tying it with an infield single in the seventh.
And Upton was part of the Rays' chance to win it in the 10th, leading off with a walk, stealing second and moving to third with one out. But Brooks Conrad, who pinch-hit for Matt Joyce two innings earlier, struck out, and pinch-hitter Hideki Matsui flew out to left (swinging at the first pitch after Jeff Keppinger walked on four straight to load the bases). Matsui had replaced Luke Scott, who left the game with right mid back tightness but said he doesn't think it's too bad and hopes to return Sunday.
In the 11th, Desmond Jennings walked and stole second, but the next three Rays were retired in order. And in the 12th, Zobrist got to second with one out, but Conrad and Matsui both struck out. The two teams combined to strike out 32 times, most ever in a Rays game.
The most encouraging development of the night for the Rays was right-hander James Shields, who delivered his best performance in a month while ending a dubious streak of four consecutive starts in which he allowed double-digit hits.
Shields gave up three runs on four hits over 7⅔ innings, and though he gave up the lead on a two-run homer in the seventh, he looked a lot more like the veteran who finished third in the American League Cy Young voting last season.
"Everything felt really good," Shields said.
The Rays took the lead in the sixth when Upton hit a solo homer and Keppinger singled off the glove of third baseman Kyle Seager with two outs.
Shields gave the lead right back in the top of the seventh, with a leadoff single by Kyle Seager, then a one-out, two-run homer by Carlos Peguero (his first of the season) on a 1-and-2 pitch.
The bullpen was once again impressive to give the Rays a chance.
"We feel like it was worth the fight," Peña said.