ST. PETERSBURG — Things really weren't going as planned for the Rays on Saturday afternoon. At least not until the final moment, when third-base coach Tom Foley whispered in Matt Joyce's ear to look for Angels reliever Fernando Rodney to bounce his next pitch.
Rodney did just that, misfiring on a 1-and-2 slider with two outs in the 10th, and Joyce raced home to give the Rays a 2-1 win that was one of their wildest: the first in their 14 seasons on a walkoff wild pitch.
"A crazy game," Joyce said.
To get to that point, a lot happened for the Rays, who finished April 15-12 after their 0-6, 1-8 start. They got another strong start from James Shields, took the lead on Joyce's fifth-inning homer, gave up the lead on a bad break in the ninth and rallied in the 10th.
And by the end of the day, they had two more players, Sam Fuld and Kyle Farnsworth, in the trainer's room and Jake McGee headed to the minors in the first step of a multistage roster shuffle.
"We won the ballgame," Shields said. "That's all that really matters."
That was primarily because of another notable performance by the resurgent Shields, who fell three outs shy of a third consecutive complete-game victory but impressed nonetheless, mixing his changeup, fastball and curve in what manager Joe Maddon called "a nice Shieldsy cocktail we've got working right now."
The eight shutout innings (starting with a perfect four) extended his scoreless streak to a team-record-tying 21, and the 12 strikeouts matched his career high and were one shy of Scott Kazmir's team record.
"I feel really good with my mechanics right now," Shields said. "The way that I feel out there on the mound is translating into my pitches and translating into my results. It's a good feeling right now."
Joyce had gone a career-high 90 at-bats before homering in the third inning Friday. He went two more before hitting another, in the fifth Saturday to put the Rays up 1-0. Shields is used to having a slim lead — he has received an American League-low amount of run support (nine runs in six starts) — and it looked like it might be enough.
But he was up with a couple of pitches to start the ninth, and when Torii Hunter ripped a double on Shields' 109th pitch of the day, Maddon called for Farnsworth. Maddon said it was "kind of like maybe a gut feeling"; Shields said he would have liked to have finished but understood the move in a 1-0 game.
And that's when things got more interesting.
Hunter moved to third when Vernon Wells smashed a ball off Farnsworth's right shin (resulting in a bruise and a large postgame ice pack), then scored when second baseman Ben Zobrist, with the infield in, fielded Howie Kendrick's grounder but couldn't get the ball out of his glove quickly enough to make a play at the plate. It was Farnsworth's first blown save in six chances.
The Rays had a chance in the ninth after pinch-hitter Elliot Johnson led off with a single, but they couldn't get him home. Fuld tried to advance him to second but ended up on the ground after his first bunt attempt glanced off his bat and struck him just above the left eye. (He later saw the trainers for treatment, observation and potential concussion tests; Maddon said he seemed fine.) Fuld finished the at-bat, but the Rays couldn't finish the rally.
Joyce didn't start his 10th inning at-bat well. He told himself he would swing only if Rodney threw him a fastball, then gave in and took a late hack at a changeup, sliced it into left and hustled to second for a double.
"That one worked out for me," he said.
Zobrist lined out, but Casey Kotchman moved Joyce to third with a grounder. Then Joyce — and Foley — took it from there.
"I just told him to be ready," Foley said.
Rodney, who was suspended in 2009 when he threw a ball into the Tropicana Field press box, instead threw this one into the dirt, and the Rays were celebrating all over the field.
"That's what's fun about baseball," Farnsworth said. "You never know what's going to happen."