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Tampa Bay Rays' Matt Joyce makes up for his blunder

ST. PETERSBURG — You couldn't blame Rays RF Matt Joyce if he felt a little light-headed after the theme park ride he experienced in Thursday's 4-3, 10-inning win over the Twins.

Joyce, who entered the game hitting .138, went 3-for-4, including the Rays' first hit off Carl Pavano in the fifth inning. After Dan Johnson followed with a walk to put runners on first and second with one out, Joyce was picked off.

But Joyce's one-out double in the ninth off closer Joe Nathan scored Felipe Lopez and Ben Zobrist to tie it.

"It was a roller coaster, for sure," Joyce said. "I was kicking myself for getting picked off. I was just trying to force something and make something happen, and I just pushed too hard. We try to be aggressive here, and I was just being too aggressive. I can't get picked off in that situation."

Manager Joe Maddon was aggressive on Joyce's double, starting the runners on a 3-and-1 count. That enabled Zobrist to score from first.

"That just happened to work," Maddon said. "It's a situation there where the pitcher was really slow to the plate. … The other thing is if he throws him a strike, I think Matt is going to groove it."

The Rays fell behind again in the 10th when Matt Tolbert singled, went to second on a passed ball by John Jaso and scored on Danny Valencia's single.

But Johnny Damon's two-run homer in the bottom of the 10th left Joyce riding high again.

SHIELDS BATTLES: Rays starter James Shields pitched well enough to win but left with a no-decision after allowing two runs and nine hits over seven innings with four strikeouts. Both runs came in the sixth, when he was touched for four hits but pitched out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam.

It was reminiscent of his season debut at the Trop, when Shields suffered a 3-1 loss to Baltimore despite allowing two runs on four hits over 71/3 innings.

"These guys did a great job of battling" Shields said. "My job was to keep us in the game as long we can, and we won it there at the end. And that's beautiful."

CROWD CONTROL: Attendance was only 10,042, the smallest at Tropicana Field since 9,856 against Baltimore on Sept. 5, 2007.

"It was surprising," said Maddon, whose team entered with a two-game win streak. "Come out and see us. We're exciting."

FINE CATCH: Johnson is not known for his defense, but the first baseman turned in a gem to get the Rays out of a jam in the fifth.

After Denard Span doubled with two outs, Michael Cuddyer popped up near the Rays dugout. With Jaso also giving chase, Johnson made a sliding catch through an opening in the dugout to end the threat.

"That was not an easy play," Maddon said. "He's coming full blast. You're trying to help the guy. But when he comes at you low like that, it's really not easy."

LONGORIA Update: 3B Evan Longoria said he's progressing so well from a strained oblique, trainers have to sit on him a bit to keep him from doing too much. But it's unlikely he'll return prior to the planned three weeks on the disabled list (April 24). And he'll need some minor-league rehab games.

"It feels really good," Longoria said. "This is kind of a point in time where the trainers have to really do their job and force me to back off of it. I think we'll try to stay on track as far as the time line.

"Three weeks, hopefully sooner."

MISCELLANY: All Rays players will wear No. 42 today in honor of Jackie Robinson. The first 10,000 fans receive a Jackie Robinson T-shirt. … LHP David Price will receive the union's Players Choice Award for outstanding American League pitcher before today's game. Longoria will be presented with his Gold Glove before Saturday's game.

Tampa Bay Rays' Matt Joyce makes up for his blunder 04/14/11 [Last modified: Thursday, April 14, 2011 11:32pm]
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