ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays just weren't going to let another one get away.
Not with the Yankees winning again. Not after losing a two-run lead in the seventh with ace David Price on the mound. Not this time.
So they rallied with two outs and nothing doing in the ninth to tie, then rallied again in the 10th to score a painfully thrilling 4-3 victory Saturday over the Angels.
"My goodness, what a win," manager Joe Maddon said. "That is the most grinded-out win I think I've been associated here with ever.
"I think it rivals something in medieval times. I think I read about that game in The Pillars of the Earth, by Ken Follett. Years ago it happened, and we just happened to replay it tonight. Torture. Absolute torture."
The winning run scored on an errant throw by Angels shortstop Brandon Wood on Willy Aybar's grounder up the middle with two outs in the 10th, before an Adam Lambert concert-night crowd of 31,896 (larger than for any of the Yankees games) at Tropicana Field, and no local TV audience.
It took a lot for the Rays just to get to that point, from a pair of two-strike, two-out hits to some daring baserunning (right or wrong) to some good fortune.
Also, Maddon said, "Pure want-to."
"That's why this team is so different," Jason Bartlett said.
The Rays improved to 89-58, staying a half-game behind the American League East-leading Yankees with another four-game showdown series starting Monday in New York, and moving a relatively secure 71/2 games ahead of the Red Sox with 15 to play.
"This was a big game for us," Reid Brignac said after the team-record sixth victory in one-run games. "We needed to win this one after letting one slide away (Friday)."
They didn't expect to be in need of such dramatics considering how things looked in the seventh, Price standing tall on the mound with his 18th win in sight courtesy of a two-run homer by Brignac.
But there was a walk, there was an infield single, and there was Price's only mistake, a first-pitch fastball that Juan Rivera drilled for a three-run homer.
They were one strike away from that being the difference when Dan Johnson delivered another big hit, even if it dribbled only about 15 feet from the plate as he beat out an infield single.
"I couldn't have set it out there any better," Johnson said. "For me to get an infield hit, it takes a lot to go right."
They were down to their last strike again but Matt Joyce, who looked so bad swinging at Fernando Rodney's first pitch in the dirt, laced a single to right — the ball going through the hole because pinch-runner Desmond Jennings didn't steal so Mike Napoli was holding him on.
"Just trying to battle," Joyce said. "Just trying to fight."
Next was Carlos Peña, struggling so bad his average, already the lowest of any major-league regular, was going to drop below .200 with his next out, and he laced a ball over the head of shifted second baseman Howie Kendrick, scoring Jennings with the tying run.
Then the Rays did it again in the 10th.
Brignac got them started by lining a ball to left and running full speed straight to second. It looked to be a tremendous show of hustle but turned out to be an error in judgment, as Brignac thought the ball had skipped past leftfielder Reggie Willits.
"I put my head down, hit first and rounded the bag and looked back up and he was throwing it back in," Brignac said. "I was like, 'Uh-oh, you better get there.' "
He did, and after John Jaso's grounder moved pinch-running Bartlett to third, and after Ben Zobrist walked, Carl Crawford popped out and Evan Longoria was intentionally walked, Aybar hit it up the middle, and Wood threw it away.
"That's this team" Bartlett said. "We never think we're out of it."