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Rays let lead slip away, come back to walk off Pirates

Despite Jeffrey Springs allowing three solo homers, a strong overall pitching performance leads to Harold Ramirez delivering the winning hit in the 10th.
The Rays' Harold Ramirez reacts after driving in the winning run with a single against the Pirates during the 10th inning Friday night.
The Rays' Harold Ramirez reacts after driving in the winning run with a single against the Pirates during the 10th inning Friday night. [ SCOTT AUDETTE | AP ]
Published Jun. 25|Updated Jun. 25

ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays had reasons to smile before Friday’s game.

Refreshed by Thursday’s off-day after a tough series against the Yankees that followed a rough road trip. Excited that homegrown prospect Jonathan Aranda was making his big-league debut and trade acquisition Luke Raley his first Rays appearance. Happy to see longtime hitting coach Derek Shelton back at Tropicana Field as manager of the Pirates and other ex-mates.

Even more so afterward.

After letting an early 3-0 lead slip away in an otherwise remarkable pitching performance, the Rays rallied for a 4-3 walkoff win in the 10th, Harold Ramirez coming through again, singling in Vidal Brujan.

“I’m thinking just stay calm, because it is a good opportunity for the team,’’ Ramirez said. “So do you job and get excited after.’’

That the Rays (38-32) did, mobbing Ramirez after he rounded first, showering him with gum on the field and water and ice during his TV interview.

Ramirez was in position to deliver his latest pinch-hit (now 7-for-15 with six RBIs) because Brujan made what manager Kevin Cash said “might have been the biggest play of the game,’’ stealing third with one out.

Brujan had the red light as Francisco Mejia led off and popped out. It turned green as Ramirez — who was told to get ready to hit in the sixth but then fortuitously was held back — stepped up, and Brujan swiped third without a throw

“I was trying to get there anyway I can,’’ Brujan said, via team interpreter Manny Navarro. “In all reality, he gets hits all the time. So with a guy like him, you’ve got to be ready to go at all times. That’s why I wanted to get to third base, because I knew he was going to at least connect onto something.’’

Ramirez, who in limited opportunity has eight game-tying or go-ahead RBIs, said Brujan moving 90 feet changed a lot for him as he got the slider he was looking for from reliever Yerry De Los Santos.

“I just have to put the ball in play,’’ he said. “If I put the ball in play, something’s going to happen.’’

The Rays were in position to win it in the bottom of the 10th because of the job reliever Jason Adam did in the top of the inning. After shortstop Taylor Walls stopped Hoy Park’s hard grounder but couldn’t make a play, putting runners on the corners with no outs, Adam set the next three down — two on strikeouts — without a run scoring.

“Pretty remarkable effort,’’ Cash said. “When that guy gets to third base and you don’t get the hitter at the plate out, it’s easy to assume that guy’s going to come across to score. So just big pitch after big pitch that he made.’’

Adam was the fifth reliever after the solid six-inning showing by starter Jeffrey Springs, who struck out a career-high nine, with 72 of his career-most 102 pitches for strikes. His only blemishes were three solo home runs in a seven-batter span that wiped out the early lead that Aranda and Raley helped build with hits. “Minor blips,’' Cash said. “Everything around those pitches, he’s doing a really, really good job.’'

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For the night, it was quite the group effort on the mound, as the Rays teamed for 17 strikeouts and no walks. It was the fourth time in franchise history with at least 17 Ks and no walks, and all in the past five years.

“That’s sick,’’ Adam said. “That’s awesome. Springs did an awesome job. That’s what we want to do — throw strike one, don’t give them any free bases.

The game was the Rays’ franchise-record 10th straight decided by two or one runs — “It feels like it,” Cash said — and just the third they had won.

Definitely better to win. “Yeah.”

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