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Tampa Bay Rays bounce back to win rubber game against Baltimore Orioles

BALTIMORE — Not even 12 hours had passed since the previous night's frustrating finish, and closer Rafael Soriano, one of the primary culprits in the Rays' self-inflicted defeat, walked into manager Joe Maddon's office Wednesday morning.

"You need me, I'll be there," Soriano said, telling Maddon how ready he was to make amends in the matinee series finale.

"Nobody liked last night," Maddon said. "Nobody in here liked last night at all. … We came back today and we rectified it. And he was probably at the head of the list."

After the Rays took an early four-run lead, and after James Shields gave it all away, and after they battled back to go ahead again, Soriano was indeed there at the end to secure the 5-4 victory.

Evan Longoria had a big hand in it, too, with a homer, a double, several key defensive plays and a bases-loaded walk that scored the decisive run. Shields, despite a fourth-inning lapse, worked hard over 61/3 steamy innings for the victory. And relievers Randy Choate, Joaquin Benoit and Soriano, bouncing back from his first blown ninth-inning save, recorded the final eight outs with hardly a blip.

The win, which pushed the Rays back to their season-high mark of 20 games over .500 at 57-37, was important. To eliminate the sting of the previous night. To ease the boredom of today's day off in Cleveland, where they open a weekend series having lost their past 17 games.

And to remind them how difficult the final 10½ weeks will be given the effort it took them just to win two of three from the worst-in-baseball Orioles.

"I thought for the circumstances — long game last night, 12:30 game today — we came out with good energy," Longoria said. "That's what it's going to take. These stretch games … it's definitely going to take a lot more grit and a lot more grind than I think we realize thus far.

"And hopefully today was a good sign for us and a good reminder that it's not always going to be easy."

Wednesday started out looking like it would be, as Longoria homered in the first, Reid Brignac and Ben Zobrist knocked in runs in the second and Willy Aybar, who had two more hits, doubled in Longoria in the third.

But Shields, who allowed only one hit in the first three innings, allowed four straight, including another homer to ex-mate Ty Wigginton, in the fourth, leading to three runs. And when he gave up an RBI double in the fourth, it looked as if he was having another one of those games, as he'd had in losing eight of his previous 10 starts.

But Shields recovered, and his teammates rewarded him, turning a B.J. Upton single, two walks, a fielder's choice force-out at the plate (and good hustle by Jason Bartlett to avoid a double play) and a patient at-bat by Longoria leading to a bases-loaded walk into the winning run.

"Hopefully," said Shields, now 8-9, "this will start a nice little string here."

They added some good defense, including an eighth-inning play by Bartlett and Longoria to nab pinch-runner Scott Moore, who foolishly broke from second on a ground ball to short.

"I think we fought through nine innings," Shields said. "Especially after last night. These guys did a great job of fighting hard last night, and to come out with a win today was pretty big."

Marc Topkin can be reached at topkin@sptimes.com.

Tampa Bay Rays bounce back to win rubber game against Baltimore Orioles 07/21/10 [Last modified: Thursday, July 22, 2010 9:08am]
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