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TB@CWS: Johnson's three-run homer puts the Rays ahead

CHICAGO -- Finally, at the end of the game, Rays players shook hands on the field and the music blared in the clubhouse. That's what they do in the Major Leagues after a win.

And, yes, Tampa Bay, which learned of designated hitter Manny Ramirez's retirement just hours earlier, found the victory circle Friday night in its seventh try of the season by fighting from behind to take a 9-7 win over Chicago with 20,199 watching at U.S. Cellular Field.

"Tremendous team effort," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "... Just loved the way everybody contributed. That's who we have to be, and again, just a team victory."

Dan Johnson, who entered Friday night's game hitting .043, unloaded a three-run homer on the first pitch he saw from White Sox closer Matt Thornton with one out in the ninth.

"It's a three-run lead and inexcusable to give that up in that situation," Thornton said. "The team played so good all game long and did such a great job with our offense once again. They had a nice little cushion for us but [we] couldn't shut the door on it."

The blast gave the Rays a 9-7 lead, which, incidentally, brought the team its first lead of the season. Johnson now has 10 home runs in his Rays career and six of them have produced the game-tying or go-ahead RBI.

"Basically, I was bouncing off the bottom there [at .043]," Johnson said. "Every day coming to the park and working my behind off trying to hit anything I can in the cage and try to carry it into the game. I think hitting is kind of contagious. When we had a couple of things go our way. The bloop hit -- the first one I think of the year -- it just sort of caught on and everybody started getting on base."

Friday brought Tampa Bay one of its stranger days since the team dropped the Devil from Devil Rays following the 2005 season. The Rays began the day with an 0-6 mark on the season and few of the players on the team had been hitting. Take that baggage and add Ramirez's retirement to the mix and a strange vibe could be found in the Rays clubhouse. Ultimately, the strange brew resulted in a victory.

"When you're in position like we were -- you lose several games in a row -- it normally takes something very difficult, awkward sometimes, to get you righted," Maddon said. "Began today by Manny retiring, and then it culminated with a three-run homer by Dan Johnson against one of the best left-handed relievers in baseball. That's the unpredictability of our game."

The Rays trailed, 7-4, heading into the ninth, but they were aided by two White Sox errors in the inning. The second of those errors, a dropped fly ball by Juan Pierre, allowed the Rays' fifth run to score. B.J. Upton singled home the sixth run in advance of Johnson's homer that capped the five-run inning.

"We got a lot of breaks in this game," Johnson said. "It was a different attitude today. It was one of those things where we were real loose in the clubhouse before the game and we took it into the dugout. I thought we played real well out there."

Johnny Damon, who offered a mea culpa to Rays pitchers on behalf of Rays hitters during a team meeting Thursday, chipped in to the Rays' 10-hit attack with a solo home run off White Sox starter John Danks in the sixth.

"The most important thing the whole day was how hard we played the whole game," Damon said. "Whatever the outcome ended up being, we knew we gave it our all. We knew we found a little something we may have been missing. Bloop hits started falling. We started creating our own luck instead of waiting for it to happen. Today was a day when we picked the pitchers up."

James Shields started for the Rays and surrendered three solo home runs. Still, he put forth a blue-collar effort to keep the Rays in the game. He allowed five runs on eight hits in six innings. Oddly, the right-hander failed to strike out a hitter for just the third time in 152 Major League starters.

Joel Peralta, Cesar Ramos, Adam Russell and Kyle Farnsworth covered the final three innings, allowing just two runs to help get the music cranking for the first time this season.

"We're going to hear [the music] about 90 more times this year," Maddon said. "This was the first one. It was a great win." Comments