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Must C Clutch: Upton homers to give Rays walk-off win

ST. PETERSBURG -- B.J. Upton managed to execute the hockey equivalent of "putting the biscuit in the basket" on Tuesday night, when he deposited the baseball over the left-field wall to give Tampa Bay a 3-2 walk-off win over Toronto.

Upton's feat seemed appropriate since one Tampa Bay team seemed to feed off the other.

With the Rays trailing 2-1 in the bottom of the ninth, the scoreboard at Tropicana Field flashed the news: Tampa Bay Lightning 4, Washington Capitals 3.

Suddenly the crowd of 10,248 came to life upon hearing that the area's NHL team took a commanding 3-0 lead in the playoffs. Properly infused with good karma, the Rays promptly took the necessary steps to beat Blue Jays.

The Rays moved to 16-13 on the season to remain in second place in the American League East. The win marked the fourth walk-off win for the Rays this season and the second walk-off home run of the season. Johnny Damon hit the other on April 14 against the Twins.

Ben Zobrist faced Toronto closer Jon Rauch to lead off the ninth. Moments after the hockey score appeared, Zobrist sent a line drive into left field to bring Upton to the plate. Rauch got ahead 0-1. Upton connected on the next pitch for his fourth home run of the season and the third walk-off homer of his career.

"Just [looking to] get a good pitch to hit," Upton said. "The first pitch was a good pitcher's pitch. I definitely didn't want to swing at it in that situation. Then he threw me a fastball, and I got a good piece of the barrel to it."

The walk-off hit was the fourth of Upton's career and his third against the Blue Jays.

Rauch suffered his first blown save in six opportunities this season.

"I screwed up," Rauch said. "I made two really, really bad pitches and they capitalized on it."

Rauch tried to command the bottom half of the strike zone, but did not accomplish his goal.

"We're all human, we're going to make mistakes," Rauch said. "But I'm better than that, and I let my team down today. We had a chance to win that ballgame, and I screwed it up."

After the game, Upton received an innovative salute delivered by Evan Longoria, who played in his first game with the Rays since April 2. Rather than the customary shaving cream pie to Upton's face, Longoria delivered one consisting of chocolate whipped cream.

"First time I've ever experienced that," Upton said. "I had my eyes closed thinking it was shaving cream, and I'm like, 'Is that chocolate?' It's pretty cool though, something different."

Wade Davis started for the Rays and managed to hold the Blue Jays to two runs in six innings. Included in his fifth consecutive quality start was a nice job of damage control in the fourth. Edwin Encarnacion doubled to center field with two outs to put Toronto up, 2-1. But after walking John McDonald to load the bases, Davis struck out Rajai Davis swinging to end the threat.

"I didn't think Wade was particularly sharp tonight," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "But he got through six innings and that was huge."

Davis agreed with his manager's assessment.

"I wasn't getting ahead of anybody, and I was a little bit behind most of the game and wasn't making good pitches early in the count," Davis said. "But we played some good defense and came out with a big win."

Brandon Gomes took over for Davis to start the seventh, making his Major League debut for the Rays after being recalled from Triple-A Durham prior to Tuesday's game. The right-hander looked poised while pitching two scoreless frames, allowing only a walk. Gomes earned the Maddon's praise for his effort.

The win "was all made possible by Brandon Gomes, who did a [nice] job in relief tonight," Maddon said. "He was really, really good."

Toronto starter Jo-Jo Reyes allowed a season-low one earned run, but did not factor in the decision. He has not won since June 13, 2008, covering a period of 24 starts since his last win, which is the longest stretch since Matt Young went 27 starts between victories for the Mets and Cubs over the 1992-94 seasons.

Tampa Bay has won seven of their last nine games and is 16-7 since starting the season 0-6. The team has five come-from-behind wins this season and is 6-1 in one-run games.

"Saved it until the ninth inning," Maddon said. "That ball B.J. hit had a nice little draw, like you see when he's on the golf course. ... I love the attitude, the fact that we kept fighting and fighting." Comments