09/25/08 12:14 AM ET
Win puts Rays one step from clinching
Tampa Bay rallies to down O's; next chance comes Thursday
By Bill Chastain / MLB.com
After falling in a six-run hole to the Orioles, the Rays resembled a hard-pressing basketball team during an 11-0 run, that resulted in an 11-6 win in front of a crowd of 13,632 at Camden Yards.
By winning, the Rays maintained their three-game lead over the second-place Red Sox in the American League East while reducing their magic number to one. A Tampa Bay win or Boston loss will make the Rays the AL East champions.
The Red Sox spoiled the Rays' chances to clinch Wednesday night by defeating the Indians, 5-4. On Thursday, Tampa Bay will have two chances to clinch. The first of those will come in a 1:05 p.m. ET contest against the Tigers in Detroit. If that one falls through, Boston plays Cleveland later that night at Fenway Park.
"It's tough not to watch the scoreboard," B.J. Upton said. "But we knew the whole time we just had to do our part to win the ballgame. They got off to a good start, but it was still early in the game. We know we can score runs, just run together a big inning and once again, like last night, a snowball effect and we didn't let up."
The Rays' winning rally took place in the sixth inning after pinch-hitter Fernando Perez singled with one out and Jason Bartlett was hit by a pitch from Orioles left-hander Brian Burres. Akinori Iwamura then laced a triple down the right-field line that chased both runners home and gave the Rays their first lead of the night at 7-6.
"Aki's ball down the line was a big hit -- I also liked Perez's hit, getting on with one out -- so many good things," Rays manager Joe Maddon said.
Edwin Jackson started for the Rays and surrendered six consecutive hits to the first six Orioles he faced, which harvested five runs. Jackson then gave up another in the second, when Brian Roberts singled with one out, stole second base and scored on Nick Markakis' single to put the Orioles up, 6-0.
Jackson managed to settle down, allowing no more runs and giving the Rays 5 1/3 innings to pick up his 13th win of the season.
"Edwin Jackson [had a] tough first inning," Maddon said. "I love when a guy can do that. He has a very difficult beginning and has the wherewithal to stay in the moment and give us a chance to win, which he did."
Hanging tough wasn't a matter of heart, according to Jackson.
"It's a matter of re-gaining control, bringing the game back to you," Jackson said. "You just have to take control, bear down and battle. It's always tough when you let the other team get off to a big lead like that. You just try to save the 'pen a little bit and keep the offense around as long as possible."
Dormant for the first three innings, the Rays fought back with five runs in the fourth. Gabe Gross drove in the first run with a bases-loaded walk before Eric Hinske singled home another. Two runs then scored when Jason Bartlett hit a single that ricocheted off Orioles starter Radhames Liz. Dioner Navarro scored sliding as Liz's throw to the plate went wild, which allowed Gross to also score on the play. Iwamura then grounded out to drive home Hinske to cut the Orioles' lead to 6-5.
The Rays added four runs in the eighth when Evan Longoria and Cliff Floyd each walked with the bases loaded and Navarro singled home two more to make it 11-6.
"Hat's off to the offense," Jackson said. "It was just a team effort. Everybody was battling and we showed guts tonight."
Chad Bradford pitched 1 1/3 innings of scoreless relief against his former teammates and Trever Miller finished out the game with 2 1/3 scoreless innings to preserve the win and earn his second save of the season.
"A lot of people contributed to the win tonight, all up and down the board," Maddon said. "Good defense, everything, tough beginning, wonderful ending."
While the Rays didn't clinch on Wednesday night as hoped, the mood in the Rays clubhouse was anything but dour.
"It didn't happen tonight," Upton said. "The only thing we can do is go out and try to win a ballgame [Thursday]. We've got a 1 o'clock ballgame. We're going to get in [to Detroit] pretty late and it will probably be a pretty rough game for us. But we're going to be out there trying to win."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.