ST. PETERSBURG — In a perfect world James Loney would have been batting in the bottom of the ninth inning Wednesday with the winning run at third base and the losing streak on the ropes.
But the Rays world has been far from perfect during the last week, so it was Jason Bourgeois standing at the plate, the fifth outfielder who's on the roster because Desmond Jennings is on the disabled list and was in the game because Loney was lifted for Bourgeois the previous inning when the Rays were looking to at the very least tie the score.
And wouldn't you know it, Bourgeois came through.
His single to right field scored Matt Joyce and capped a ninth inning comeback that snapped the losing streak and sent the Rays dancing into the night with a 5-4 victory against the Mariners.
“How that whole thing plays out, how about it? We have to run for Loney just because you're trying to tie the game at that point and he comes around and becomes the hero,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said.
The Rays snapped their six-game losing streak, their longest since they lost the first six games of the 2011 season. And, they picked up a game on the first place Red Sox, who lost in Toronto just as the Rays were mounting their comeback.
Asked if it was the type of win that could lead to better things, Maddon said, “I want to hope so. That's what you're looking for. It's almost never easy when things are getting a little bit awkward. It normally takes an awkward game to win in order to get you back on task or on track.”
It was awkward, that's for sure.
David Price, making his first career start against Seattle, did not have one of his better outings since returning from the disabled list. He allowed all four Mariner runs to score with two outs.
The Rays inability to hit with runners in scoring position continued through the first eight innings. They were 2-for-10 with RISP after leaving the bases-loaded in the eighth.
It looked bleak … again. Especially after the first place Red Sox rallied with two in the ninth in Toronto to send that game into extra innings.
“You look for days like (Wednesday) that catapult you forward and kind of turn it around, turn it in the right direction and get the guys believing again,” Evan Longoria said.
The Rays trailed 4-1 when Wil Myers followed a leadoff double by Longoria in the sixth inning with a two-run homer. It was the ninth homer of the year for the rookie and it snapped an 0-for-15 slump.
The Rays had a golden opportunity to take the lead in the eighth inning when they loaded the bases on three walks. The first was to Loney and that's when Bourgeois entered the game as a pinch-runner.
“All those guys (in the eighth), we just had to keep moving the conga line to try and get it back to the top of the batting order,” Maddon said. “Even if you don't score prior to that moment you have keep it moving so the proper guys get up.”
Ben Zobrist, who homered twice in Tuesday's loss, opened the ninth with a triple off the top of the right-field wall.
“It was nice to leadoff like that because then it gives everybody confidence,” Zobrist said. “Matty comes up and has a big at-bat right there, just putting the bat on the ball and getting it out there. At that point you just felt like we're going to win right there.”
Joyce singled on an 0-2 pitch to score Zobrist and make it 4-4.
Joyce said Longoria approached him before the at-bat and said, “You know you don't need to hit a home run. Just stay within yourself and don't try to do too much.”
“I just tried to battle, put something in play,” Joyce said. “It was a fastball off the plate. I didn't know if he was going to throw me another strike, so I tried to do something with it.”
Longoria doubled, moving Joyce to third base, and Seattle's Danny Farquhar walked Myers intentionally to load the bases.
Farquhar had converted his last five save opportunities and had retired 28 of 30 batters prior to the triple by Zobrist.
Now he was facing Bourgeois with the bases-loaded and no outs.
“I didn't know if I was going to have the chance to come up in that situation,” Bourgeois said. “Joyce battled the 0-2 pitch up the middle and it kind of trickled down to me.”
Bourgeois, hitless in his first five at-bats with the Rays since being recalled at the start of the last road trip, drove a ball over the head of Seattle right fielder Endy Chavez for the second career walk-off hit of his career. The first came in April 2011 when he was with the Astros.
“It felt awesome,” Bourgeois said. “I couldn't ask for a better situation. Being in Durham first and getting an opportunity to play, then them wanting me to be a part of this ball club.”
It was a big hit for Bourgeois and even bigger hit for the Rays.
“It could be the difference between winning the division,” Maddon said, “and being a wild card team.”
It was the Rays first win since Bourgeois joined the team, so it was his first go-round with the Rays post-victory, clubhouse celebration. It was his turn to light the lamp in the corner of the clubhouse.
Bourgeois said he never experienced anything in baseball like that during his career.
After his single beat the Brewers back in 2011?
“We went in there, showered up and then went home,” he said.
But on Wednesday Bourgeois was blinded by the strobe lights and overcome by the music. His teammates had to point him in the direction of the lamp.
“These guys know how to do it,” Bourgeois said. “Hands down, they know how to let you know that they care about you, and they love you for what you did out there. It was a moment I'll never forget, I'll tell you that.”