ST. PETERSBURG -- Johnny Damon's walk-off homer in the 10th capped Tampa Bay's second comeback of the game on Thursday night, giving the Rays a 4-3 win over the Twins with a crowd of 10,042 watching at Tropicana Field.
By winning the first game of the four-game series, the Rays claimed their third consecutive game, moving to 4-8 on the season while notching their first victory in six tries at home.
Sam Fuld started the winning rally with a one-out single off Matt Capps. But Rays manager Joe Maddon did not want the American League's leading base stealer to try and take second in that situation, even if the Rays trailed by just one run.
"Capps is really quick to the plate," Maddon said. "He's like 1.2 [seconds] or 1.3 to the plate. And he holds the ball. He does a lot of different things. Butera throws well enough. There was not a good enough matchup for us to run there."
Damon took the first pitch for a ball then swung at the second, a sinker away, and he planted the baseball into the right-field stands for the game winner.
Capps "threw it in a good spot for John," Maddon said. "I thought homer off the bat. [Michael] Cuddyer is really a good outfielder. I'm watching him go back and I've got to pay attention to that, but I thought, on the night [Ben] Zobrist just missed [April 2 vs. Baltimore] I thought it wasn't going to go out and I thought this one would."
Damon had experienced a frustrating night to that point.
"Going up to that last at-bat, you know I'm 0-for-4 in the game and really couldn't do anything off [Twins starter Carl] Pavano, but you learn how to forget about it," Damon said. "You learn how to be in the moment and that's what I did. It wasn't that bad of a pitch by Capps. Fortunately, I got enough of it and got it over his head and it worked out great."
Capps said he threw the ball to where he wanted.
"A sinker away," Capps said. "If I'm in the same situation tomorrow with the same hitter and same guy on base, I'm probably throwing the same pitch. I wasn't unhappy with what I did. I was unhappy with the results. It was a good piece of hitting."
Trailing, 2-0, entering the ninth, the Rays fought back to tie the game. Felipe Lopez doubled off Joe Nathan with one out to start the rally. Zobrist then drew a walk to bring up Matt Joyce.
Facing a 3-1 count and the runners going on the pitch, Joyce lined a double into center field and his third hit of the night tied the score at 2.
"I can't tell you everything, because we have certain things that we normally do," said Maddon when asked why he started the runners on 3-1. "It just happened to work. It's a situation there where the pitch was really slow to the plate, like almost two [seconds] flat, which is a number you can normally run on. And the other part of it is, if he throws him a strike, I think Matt is going to move it."
Joyce's hit and the runners in motion resembled a pin ball machine favoring the Rays.
"Ding, ding, ding, ding," said Maddon when asked about the pinball image. "It's kind of nice when everything comes together like that. It was a good moment."
The Twins took a 3-2 lead in the top of the 10th on Danny Valencia's single up the middle to score Tolbert.
James Shields and Pavano started Thursday night and each brought their "A" game with them, matching one another zero for zero through five innings.
Pavano logged 4 1/3 innings of no-hit baseball before Joyce finally ended the suspense with a single through third and shortstop.
The Twins broke the scoreless tie in the sixth on a sacrifice fly by Delmon Young and a run-scoring single by Drew Butera to put the Twins up, 2-0.
Shields overcame several early obstacles and got some help in the field as well.
The Rays right-hander looked particularly sharp in the third. With two outs, Cuddyer hit a sinking line drive to left field. Fuld gave an all-out sprint, diving at the last minute to try and make the grab. At first, he appeared to have the ball, but it dropped to the artificial surface at the last instant and Cuddyer ended up at second, giving the Twins their first true scoring threat of the game.
Shields never panicked. Instead he retired Justin Morneau swinging at an 86 mph cutter.
Shields helped his own cause, and received additional help from first baseman Dan Johnson in the fifth.
With one out, Shields struck out Alexi Casilla swinging, but uncorked a wild pitch in the process, allowing Casilla to reach base. Fortunately for Shields, he picked off Casilla at first right before Denard Span doubled to center field. Cuddyer then popped up into foul territory. Johnson and the catcher, Jaso, hustled after the ball toward the Rays' dugout. Somehow they managed to avoid a collision and Johnson came away with an amazing sliding catch.
"That was sick," said Shields of Johnson's catch before he reflected on the team. "We've been playing really well for the last couple of games. We've had some really key hits and our hitting has been coming around as of late. Our starting pitching has been doing a really good job and when you put those two things together, it's a combination for winning."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.