09/27/09 7:24 PM ET
Rays storm back to stun Rangers in finale
Tampa Bay scores seven runs in final two frames to win
By Bill Chastain / MLB.com
"It's not over until the last out in the ninth," said Ben Zobrist, who had four RBIs in the final two innings. "I'm proud of the way our team kept fighting and hanging in there even though we were down early again and it just seemed like here we go getting swept here again. So [it] definitely feels good as a team to come back like that."
Zobrist led the way with a two-run single in the eighth and a game-tying two-run single in the ninth that moved Evan Longoria to third base to set the stage for the win.
"I was just trying to salvage the day," Zobrist said. "Try and get a knock in there and put a good swing on it and hit it hard somewhere."
After Zobrist's hit tied the game at 6, Neftali Feliz entered the game to pitch to Fernando Perez.
"Right before I went out there, when Zobrist was up, I remember [manager] Joe [Maddon] said, 'Why not us one time?'" Perez said. "And I think what he was talking about was that lately, it's been us in that situation winning by a couple and having somebody take it away. Of course we can't make it to the postseason, but the games are still important. You don't go out there to lose."
On the first pitch, Perez greeted the right-hander with a perfectly placed bunt down the first-base line. Longoria raced home on the safety squeeze, minting what turned out to be the winning run.
"It was a perfect situation, Joe Maddon baseball -- works every time," Perez said. "It's brilliant."
Perez said he bunted a fastball down the middle.
"They probably had no idea that he would do it then," Perez said. "I would imagine if they did they would have tried to throw something out of the zone first with the base open."
By winning, the Rays claimed their first win of the season at Texas, thereby preventing the Rangers from sweeping them for a second time in Texas this season.
"I think it's a really big win," Perez said. "It's good we did it one time. And that's more our style of play. We haven't been doing that intangible comeback kind of thing of late. So it's good to do it."
Zobrist added, "It's a good feeling. We've been feeling the wrong side of these losses, so it's nice to head home with a winning feeling."
The Rangers built a 5-0 lead by the fifth inning against Rays starter David Price on a two-run homer by Nelson Cruz in the second and a three-run rally in the fifth fueled by an RBI double by Ian Kinsler, an RBI bunt single by Elvis Andrus, and a sacrifice fly by David Murphy.
Meanwhile, Brandon McCarthy cruised through the first 7 2/3 innings before third baseman Chris Davis booted what would have been the third out in the eighth. With the door opened, the Rays pushed across three runs in the eighth on Zobrist's two-run single and Willy Aybar's RBI single to cut the Rangers' lead to 5-3. Marlon Byrd hit his 20th homer of the season in the bottom half of the inning to push the lead to 6-3 heading into the final frame.
"That turned the game around, it gave them the momentum," said Davis about his error.
Grant Balfour retired the first two hitters in the ninth before Lance Cormier entered the game to get the final out and record his second save of the season.
"It was just everything reversed of what has happened to us over the past month," Maddon said. "We finally got back at somebody. Good at-bats toward the end. You could feel the momentum building for us."
Maddon pointed out that it would have been easy for the Rays to quit on Sunday, but they did not.
"It's a tough circumstance to play under and I loved what we did," Maddon said. "Last road game, where we have not been good, against a team that's trying to get into the playoffs, it's a day game, it's 100 degrees or whatever, and they've got us down. And we come back and win it. I think that speaks a lot for the effort level and the want-to by the group. I've felt that all along about our boys and that just validated it today."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.