Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tampa Bay Rays recapture some of last season's magic with team-record rally from seven-run deficit

ST. PETERSBURG — Before B.J. Upton came to bat in the ninth inning Friday night, veteran closer Troy Percival shared a few words:

"Let's play Rays baseball," he told Upton. "Just keep scrapping like we did all game."

For the second straight night, the Rays had to dig themselves out of a huge hole. This time, they overcame a seven-run deficit and made history doing it.

The fans chanted "B.J. Upton!" as the struggling leadoff hitter came to bat in a tie game, and Upton had them on their feet after a walkoff homer to left on a 3-and-2 pitch, lifting the Rays to an improbable 8-7 win over the Indians in front of 25,827 at Tropicana Field.

"It felt a lot like last year," Ben Zobrist said. "That's something we want to continue. I don't know now many games like that we won last year, to have that feeling again, I think that's a huge confidence builder."

It was the largest deficit the Rays (17-20) have overcome in a victory in the club's 12-season history, having won after trailing by six five times (including once in their World Series run last season).

Yes, for one night, 2009 > 2008.

And the Rays hope that the win can help them recapture the familiar magic — and fight — they have yet to show consistently so far this season.

"It was huge, huge," catcher Dioner Navarro said. "It says a lot about us. It says a lot about this team. Maybe this is a wake-up call? Maybe this is the win that we needed to start rolling."

The comeback began in the fourth, after starter Scott Kazmir was pulled from a start in which he gave up seven runs on 10 hits (the second-highest total of his career). J.P Howell said that a few of the relievers in the bullpen were saying in the early innings, "We need a walkoff or something," he said. "And there it was."

The Rays started to show some life in the bottom of the fourth with a three-run rally that symbolized the night's comeback (manufacturing runs, grinding out at-bats and doing the little things right).

Upton led off with a double, stole third and scored on a single by Carlos Peña. Evan Lon­goria then hustled to score on the same play, thanks to a throwing error by rightfielder Shin-Soo Choo. Willy Aybar added an RBI single as well.

In the eighth, Zobrist ripped a solo homer to tie the score (his 11th homer in his past 33 games) to set up Upton's heroics.

"Right place, right time," Zobrist said.

But the relievers were also heroes. The group has been overburdened lately, but stepped up. There was long reliever Lance Cormier, whom manager Joe Maddon has labeled the bullpen MVP for racking up innings. There was Percival, who threw a scoreless inning, and Dan Wheeler, who escaped a ninth-inning jam (two on, two outs).

Percival led a group, including J.P. Howell, Kazmir and Cormier back into the dugout in the ninth inning, to "show them this is a team thing — we have to feel it."

Zobrist said they felt it in the dugout when Upton came to bat.

"You're thinking, 'This is it, we're going to win it,' " he said. "I could already see the ball go into the stands. And then, right there, 3-2 (count), he does it."

Said Maddon: "You just have to keep believing, for those with short memories. Our guys have a lot of heart."

Comeback kids

The Rays' 8-7 come-from-behind victory Friday was the largest in team history (seven runs). Their previous best was digging out of a six-run hole, which they've done five times.

5/15/2009 vs. Indians (trailed 7-0, won 8-7)

9/24/2008 at Orioles (trailed 6-0, won 11-6)

4/07/2006 at Blue Jays (trailed 6-0, won 9-7)

4/08/2003 vs. Orioles (trailed 6-0, won 8-7)

8/22/2001 vs. Orioles (trailed 7-1, won 11-10)

4/13/1998 vs. Twins (trailed 6-0, won 13-12)

Rays 8

Indians 7

XX innings

Tampa Bay Rays recapture some of last season's magic with team-record rally from seven-run deficit 05/15/09 [Last modified: Saturday, May 16, 2009 12:42am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. The greatest coaches never to win it all


    As foregone conclusions go, some things are approaching the death-and-taxes stratosphere: summer humidity in Florida, a Kardashian seeking attention, and Mike Martin coming up short in Omaha.

    Florida State coach Mike Martin walks to the mound to talk to pitcher Cole Sands during the second inning of the team's NCAA College World Series baseball game against LSU Wednesday in Omaha, Neb. [AP photo]
  2. Bucs fans ranked 25th in study of NFL teams


    The Bucs and their fans are ranked 25th in an Emory University study of NFL teams' "fan base and branding analysis."

    Bucs fans were on their feet for this fourth-quarter play at home against the Carolina Panthers at Raymond James Stadium in 2015.
  3. With trade freeze over, Lightning could be active


    With the dust settling on the expansion draft saga, the Lightning can now focus on addressing some of its needs.

    The Lightning could target a veteran defenseman on the market, such as MInnesota's Matt Dumba.
  4. NBA draft: Jonathan Isaac could make FSU history tonight


    Florida State forward Jonathan Isaac will probably hear his name called early in tonight's NBA draft.

  5. USF walk-on tight end Palmore faces charge of credit card fraud


    A University of South Florida football player faces charges of fraudulent use of a credit card and petit theft following his arrest by Temple Terrace police on Monday.

    USF senior tight end Adrian Palmore faces charges of fraudulent use of a credit card and petit theft after his arrest by Temple Terrace police on June 19, 2017. [Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office]