ST. PETERSBURG - Once Thursday afternoon's rip-roaring clubhouse celebration had finally subsided, Brandon Allen tried to describe what happened.
"Baseball is luck," said Allen, Tampa Bay's latest cult hero. "It's a lot of luck."
But to Rays manager Joe Maddon and Allen's new teammates, it was much more than that.
Allen, just one week after being claimed off waivers, delivered a one-out, two-strike, pinch-hit, walk-off home run to right-center field, giving the Rays a pulsating 4-3 victory against the Los Angeles Angels in front of 15,417 fans at Tropicana Field.
The Rays, who completed a sweep against the Angels, have won five in a row heading into tonight's opener of a three-game road series against the Texas Rangers.
"When we made the acquisition and I was told what (Allen) was like as a person, they said, ‘80 makeup,"' Maddon said. "That's as high a grade as you can give any baseball player. It's an A-plus-plus kind of thing.
"When I first met him, I said, ‘Just stay ready.' I really didn't have any idea how this was all going to work out. He didn't bemoan anything. He has been working very hard."
And Thursday afternoon, he was ready.
The Rays trailed, 3-2, entering the ninth inning, when B.J. Upton snuck a one-out single past the diving Howie Kendrick at second base. Up stepped Allen, pinch-hitting for catcher Jose Molina.
Allen worked a 2-2 count on Angels reliever Jordan Walden, then drove a 431-foot game-winning shot into the bleachers. Right fielder Torii Hunter barely moved.
The ball was retrieved by a Rays staff member and presented to Allen after the game. Allen said he will give it to his mother, Doris, in Texas.
"Oh my gosh, I'm so happy for him," said rookie left-hander Matt Moore, the starter who was taken off the hook for a losing decision after Allen's blast.
"I don't think you can ask for much more from somebody coming in," said Rays reliever Brandon Gomes (1-1), who picked up the victory after striking out two batters in a scoreless ninth inning. "This team … really does bring out the best in everybody."
Allen, who was the Opening Day first baseman for the Oakland Athletics when they began the season in Japan, was claimed off waivers after he had gone 0-for-7 with five strikeouts in three games.
Wednesday night, Allen made his first plate appearance since April 7 (a span of 17 days without playing). He worked a bases-loaded walk in the eighth, producing what would be the winning run.
In less than 24 hours, Allen went from walk to walk-off.
"It was amazing," Allen said. "Everybody wants that moment. I'm so thankful I got it. What more could you ask for?"
"You come in there full of energy after being down all game. Once you see that first pitch, everything kind of calms down. You just try to get that pitch you can do something with."
Walden called it "one bad pitch."
"I can't second-guess myself," Walden said. "That's my best pitch. It was just a tough one."
"I always said that guy could hit," Hunter said. "He came up with that big swing off a guy who throws 97 (mph) with two strikes. He just took a chance on a fastball and hit it."
Allen, who played parts of four major-league seasons with the Arizona Diamondbacks and A's, hit 142 homers in eight minor-league years. Somewhere in there, on a long-forgotten diamond, Allen hit his last walk-off homer.
This one, though, will be remembered.
"I'm just going to be ready whenever Joe calls on me," said Allen, 26, a first baseman/outfielder. "It's not going to be like this all the time. But I'll be ready."
Tampa Bay Rays