Rays manager Joe Maddon isn't the biggest proponent of the sacrifice bunt.
But in Saturday's 5-4 come-from-behind victory over the Rangers, the strategy worked out perfectly.
Tampa Bay trailed by a run when Wil Myers led off the eighth with a walk. Ben Zobrist sacrificed him to second. Texas decided to intentionally walk Evan Longoria, taking the bat away from the Rays' best hitter.
However, James Loney made the Rangerspay, ripping a two-run double off lefty Neal Cotts and over the head of leftfielder Shin-Soo Choo. Closer Grant Balfour pitched a 1-2-3 ninth for his first save of the season, extending the Rays' winning streak to three in front of 30,364 at Tropicana Field on Myers bobblehead night.
The Rays (4-2) trailed for most of the game. Ace left-hander David Price finished with a no-decision after allowing four runs on nine hits in six innings. Price hoped to get better at shutting the door with two outs, but the Rangers victimized him.
Alex Rios ripped a two-out, two-strike, two-run double off Price in the first inning. Texas added a run in the second on three consecutive two-out singles. Of the nine hits Price allowed, six came with two outs.
Down 3-0 after the second inning, the Rays chipped away against right-hander Nick Martinez, who made his big-league debut. Tampa Bay didn't know much about Martinez, who hadn't pitched above Double A, but Maddon just wanted him to earn his outs.
Tampa Bay hit the ball hard early but squandered a first-and-third, one-out situation in the second. It wasn't until Yunel Escobar, fresh off agreeing to a two-year contract extension, hit a solo home run in the third that the Rays got on the board.
Then in the fourth, Loney reached on a one-out walk and Matt Joyce followed with a two-run homer to right, his first of the season, to cut Texas' lead to 4-3.
Price settled down, cruising through the fifth and sixth innings before getting pulled after 99 pitches. The bullpen continued its stellar run with three scoreless innings to keep the score close.
The Rays put together another rally in the seventh off Jason Frasor. Joyce led off with an opposite-field single and advanced to third on Logan Forsythe's single to left-center (though Forsythe was thrown out trying to advance to second).
With one out, the Rangers played their infield in for Escobar, who grounded out to short. David DeJesus lofted a fly ball that should have been the final out, but rightfielder Michael Choice lost it in foul territory, giving DeJesus another chance.
But the Rays DH couldn't capitalize as he hit a slow chopper to short and was thrown out by a step.
Joe Smith can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @TBTimes_JSmith.
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Vs. Rangers, 1:40, Tropicana Field
TV/radio: Sun Sports; 620-AM