Skip to content Skip to sidebar Skip to footer

ST. PETERSBURG — During their seven-game losing streak, the Rays lamented what they felt were an excessive number of bad breaks and bounces that went against them.

Thursday, they got a few that went their way. Most importantly on the final pitch, as they scored a wild 1-0 walkoff win over the Red Sox and moved back atop the American League East at 45-31.

Manuel Margot raced home from third as a wild pitch from Boston closer Matt Barnes bounced away from catcher Christian Vazquez. It was the fourth time in the Rays’ 24-season history they won a on a walkoff wild pitch, but the first in 3,698 games they did so 1-0.

“Odd way to win a ballgame,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “But we’ll take it.”

Even odder, because they were no-hit until Kevin Kiermaier doubled with one out in the eighth, after Boston manager Alex Cora made what he called a “no-brainer” decision to lift starter Nick Pivetta in the seventh after 100 pitches.

The win was even more rewarding after the Rays lost four times on walkoffs during the seven-game skid.

“To win a close ballgame does feel good,” Cash said. “We’ve lost our share here lately of close ones, and it’s nice for the guys to feel a win afterwards.”

Margot singled with two outs to start the winning sequence, broke for second on a 1-0 pitch to Joey Wendle and advanced to third as Vazquez’s throw bounced into center.

“I was just looking for a good pitch to hit that was in the zone, and then once I got on base, I was just trying to be aggressive,” Margot said via team interpreter Manny Navarro.

From third, he said it was an easy decision to head home once he saw Barnes’ 0-1 curveball bounce away from Vazquez. “I knew I was going to be safe,” Margot said.

Kiermaier said he had a hunch something good was going to happen when Margot — whom he called “the best baserunner in the big leagues” — got to third.

“Matt Barnes, their closer, he loves that curveball,” Kiermaier said. “There’s times where he spikes it; it still starts above your head, and a lot of guys swing at it. So I didn’t think he was going to make that mistake of doing that.

“But when you have a very good curveball like that, those things happen. And thankfully, he did that. And that’s what helped us win.”

Before he broke up the no-hitter, Kiermaier made the biggest of a handful of big defensive plays by the Rays to keep the game tied.

With one out in the seventh (after a great grab by third baseman Joey Wendle), Kiermaier threw a 181-foot strike to catcher Francisco Mejia from centerfield, clocked at 94.7 mph, to nail ex-mate Hunter Renfroe. Renfroe was trying to score from second on Vazquez’s single to keep the game scoreless. The out call survived a replay challenge.

“I knew I had to get to it, and I’m just glad I timed up that last hop perfectly and it went in my glove and I was able to (get a four-seam grip) right away,” Kiermaier said. “Had to rush it a little bit, but it got there in time and it was online and Frankie put a good tag on him.”

Mejia then made a good throw of his own to nab Vazquez getting back to second late.

The Rays were in position for the late dramatics due to a dazzling five-inning performance from Michael Wacha, who had made a rough return to the rotation Friday in place of injured Tyler Glasnow. Wacha held the Sox hitless until two outs in the fifth and allowed just one while striking out seven (five on changeups). Add the work of four relievers, and the Rays had their sixth shutout.

More importantly, they were celebrating a walkoff win for the first time in a month, having trudged off the field in defeat five times since. “It’s much better on the winning side of it,” Margot said.

• • •

Sign up for the Rays Report weekly newsletter to get fresh perspectives on the Tampa Bay Rays and the rest of the majors from sports columnist John Romano.

Never miss out on the latest with the Bucs, Rays, Lightning, Florida college sports and more. Follow our Tampa Bay Times sports team on Twitter and Facebook.