Crawford flashes back to '08 with walk-off
In season opener, left fielder laces two-run double in ninth
ST. PETERSBURG -- Amid the haze that never quite disappeared from inside Tropicana Field on Tuesday night, the Rays seemed to time travel back to 2008, a year when new heroes stepped forward every night and walk-off wins were the order of the day.
Carl Crawford's two-run double provided the final heroics on a memorable 2010 Opening Day in front of a sellout crowd of 36,973 that ended with a 4-3 walk-off win over the Orioles.
Smoke bursts accompanied Tampa Bay's player introductions before the game, leaving a haze hanging over the field. Much to the delight of Rays fans, Kelly Shoppach was clearly visible as he crossed home with the winning run on Crawford's game-winning two-run single off Orioles closer Mike Gonzalez. The familiar mob scene at home plate then followed.
"That definitely was like an '08 win," Crawford said. "We did that a lot that year. So it was nice to get that feeling back. Hopefully we don't have to come from behind as much. But hopefully if we do, we can come back and win like that."
Trailing, 3-2, heading into the bottom of the ninth, Sean Rodriguez started the rally with a one-out single. Pinch-hitting for Dioner Navarro, Shoppach followed with a double to left before Gonzalez intentionally walked Jason Bartlett to bring Crawford to the plate. Crawford got a fastball up in the strike zone and delivered a double to right field.
"I really was just trying to focus on trying to get at least one run in, at least to tie the game up," Crawford said.
Gonzalez said he was "disgusted" by his outing, but complimented the Rays by saying, "They grinded."
The walk-off win capped a night that saw a cast of Rays heroes who simply refused to accept defeat.
Manager Joe Maddon called the game "a tribute to our guys for not giving up."
"That definitely was like an '08 win. We did that a lot that year. So it was nice to get that feeling back. Hopefully we don't have to come from behind as much. But hopefully if we do, we can come back and win like that."
|-- Carl Crawford|
Count James Shields among those who refused to quit, as he gave a gutsy performance that saw him surrender three homers in six-plus innings. Adam Jones, Luke Scott and Matt Wieters all homered off the right-hander, but each of the homers came with nobody on base.
Shields managed to navigate the six other hits the Orioles got -- along with the two free passes he issued -- without any further damage.
"I didn't have the best stuff tonight, but I made some really good pitches that could have gone either way," Shields said. "The umpire did a great job of staying consistent. That's all I could ask for.
"I was kind of being a little stubborn out there, not giving into it. I was just missing tonight. I felt I wasn't as sharp as I wanted to be, but I also wasn't bad. I definitely didn't think it was an off day for me, but I had to battle."
B.J. Upton helped Shields avoid trouble in the second when he flagged down Wieters' deep drive at the wall in center. Upton ran toward the wall with his back to home plate to make a difficult play look easy on a drive that came with no outs and a runner on first. Typical of Shields' outing, he took advantage of Upton's gift by striking out Felix Pie and Garrett Atkins to end the inning.
Tampa Bay scored its first run when Pat Burrell doubled to lead off the fifth and scored on a two-out single by Bartlett as he ran through the stop sign at third. Evan Longoria homered off Kevin Millwood into the upper deck in left field to lead off the sixth and cut Baltimore's lead to 3-2.
The Rays' bullpen provided two quality innings of relief by Randy Choate and Lance Cormier before Rafael Soriano pitched the ninth. Despite an adventure that saw the Orioles load the bases on two hits and a walk, the club's new closer allowed no runs and picked up the win.
"A very interesting first game of the year, to say the least," Maddon said.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.