Rivera gives Rays walkoff win over Red Sox (w/video)

Chris Archer, left, and Desmond Jennings, right, sandwich Rene Rivera, who was batting .118 at the time of his winning shot just inside the third-base line.
Chris Archer, left, and Desmond Jennings, right, sandwich Rene Rivera, who was batting .118 at the time of his winning shot just inside the third-base line.
Published April 24, 2015

ST. PETERSBURG — What made for a crowd at Tropicana Field on Thursday night let out a pretty good roar when the final score from the Lightning's 3-2 overtime playoff win over the Red Wings was posted on the video board.

A few minutes later they had plenty more to cheer about as Rene Rivera delivered the Rays' first walkoff win of the season, 2-1 over the Red Sox, launching a wet and wild celebration that drifted out beyond second base.

"It was fun," Rivera said. "I'll take anything after a walkoff win."

"A little bit of everything," outfielder Steven Souza Jr.

The game to that point had been primarily a pitchers' duel, first between starters Jake Odorizzi, who went into the seventh for the Rays, and Clay Buchholz, and then the bullpens.

But the Rays, back to .500 at 8-8, prevailed, thanks to a rally started with a single by Allan Dykstra, whose joy was muted by a postgame demotion to Triple-A Durham. With one out, centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier — who earlier had made a spectacular diving catch — singled to left, pinch-runner Tim Beckham having to hold at second.

With Rivera, hitting .118 at that point, at the plate, manager Kevin Cash tried to force the action with a hit-and-run, and they got a bad break when Varvaro bounced his first pitch but Rivera couldn't hold up and the ball hit his bat for a foul strike.

"Just unlucky," Rivera said.

With Varvaro now paying close attention to Beckham, Rivera, in a 1-and-2 count, was ready for another curveball and laced it just inside the third-base line.

"Huge win," Cash said. "Big night for Rene. He needed that, we needed that. So I'm sure he's feeling pretty good."

Once he dried off, Rivera said he indeed was. As he struggled through the opening weeks with his new team, he kept working and hitting coaches Derek Shelton and Jamie Nelson kept telling him that he had been unlucky and would eventually find holes.

"Finally I did," Rivera said. "And it's great to have that feeling."

The Rays had more to feel good about.

Odorizzi was solid into the seventh, allowing only three hits and one second-inning run, on a sac fly. "Today was more of a struggle than what it appeared, than what the line ended up being," he said. "It was a struggle with fastball command, wasn't very good all game.''

Kiermaier led a strong defensive effort, highlighted by his running and diving catch to end the fifth with two on. "I can't say enough what KK did in that fifth inning," Odorizzi said. "I gave him a big hug after the game. That was the turning point of the game right there."

And relievers Brandon Gomes, Kevin Jepsen and Brad Boxberger were tremendous, capping a series in which the bullpen worked 8⅔ scoreless innings, allowing only two hits and a walk with nine strikeouts. "I'd say that's pretty solid," Gomes said.

Jepsen and Boxberger got the last six outs, but Gomes the biggest, coming in with two on and two out in the seventh, falling behind dangerous pinch-hitter Hanley Ramirez 3-and-0, then coming back to get him on a nasty slider.

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By the end of the night, the Rays and most of the 13,834 at the Trop had plenty to be happy about.

"It's a good Tampa Bay day," Odorizzi said.