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Thursday, Sep 21, 2017
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Rays' Johnson provides magic again

ST. PETERSBURG - Everyone will remember the Saturday night of D.J. and B.J. Dan Johnson's 10th-inning walk-off home run lifted the Tampa Bay Rays past the Boston Red Sox 3-2 at Tropicana Field. And it was B.J. Upton's homer, leading off the eighth inning, that allowed the Rays to forge a tie. But let's not forget how it all started. With Red Sox starter Clay Buchholz cruising into the seventh inning, nursing a 1-0 lead, the Rays somehow scratched together a confidence-building run.
"You push something across any way you can,'' Rays right fielder Matt Joyce said. "Sometimes, it just takes a little push for us and we get going.'' Sometimes, it happens in the most improbable manner. Carlos Pena had just advanced to third base on Buchholz's errant pickoff attempt to first. Joyce, still at the plate with one out, lifted a high foul fly, near the Rays' bullpen down the right-field line. Onrushing right fielder J.D. Drew lunged for the catch, but his throw had no realistic hope of getting Pena, who tagged up and scored easily. The game was tied. "If I was playing right, I would've let it drop,'' Joyce said. "Based on the situation and knowing how well your pitcher is throwing. If you catch it, he's going to score. I would think you take a chance at either walking the guy, then setting up the double play or just seeing what happens. "I don't know anybody is going to throw that guy out, full speed running, even a strong throw on the money, it's pretty much impossible.'' Joyce paused. "At the same time, I was glad he caught it.'' Drew said he never intended to catch it. "For some reason, that thing stuck in my glove,'' said Drew, who made a shoestring grab, then whirled to throw over the Rays' bullpen (and a catcher, who fell flat on his stomach). "I had every intention of letting it drop and it was just instinct. I put the glove out right at the last second as I saw the ball coming down and it ended up in there. "I don't know how in the world I got over the mount, into the chairs, into the wall. I almost stopping running altogether and for whatever reason, I kept going. Literally, I turned and threw the ball and, I don't know if you can read my lips on camera, but I go, 'How in the world did I catch that?' '' How, indeed. Buchholz moved on quickly. "It was a good catch, a good play,'' Buchholz said. "You can't second-guess plays like that.'' Buchholz wasn't as forgiving on his errant pickoff attempt. "I just threw it away,'' he said. "It was called from the dugout. I just tried to throw it too quick and get it over there. It was basically a check-over throw, that he knew I knew he was still over there. I screwed it up.'' According to Rays manager Joe Maddon, that error could be attributed to Tampa Bay's often-fearless running game. "That's the part of the running game that gets overlooked sometimes,'' Maddon said. "You could argue the point that you could make an out on the base (on an attempted steal), which does happen. But there are all these subliminal, under the surface problems the running game creates. The fact that we would run in that situation sets up a throw over.'' Buchholz regained his advantage when Boston catcher Victor Martinez smashed a two-out solo homer in the eighth inning, putting the Red Sox in front, 2-1. But Upton, on a 1-0 count to lead off the bottom of the eighth, had a resounding answer with his game-tying solo homer. "I was committed to throwing him a curveball there,'' Buchholz said. "I don't think I've thrown him one any time before that previously, so it was the first one he had seen all night and he caught it.'' Upton pumped his fist while rounding first base. The Tampa Bay dugout erupted. "That was huge,'' Joyce said. "Huge, huge, huge.'' Upton is batting .269 (25-for-93) in August with 14 extra-base hits and five home runs - the most homers for him in any month since he hit seven in August 2007. "I've been swinging the ball well, but I've also hitting it right at guys,'' Upton said. "All you can do is square up. "If there's a time to get hot, it's right now. Yeah, definitely, I feel pretty good up there. We needed a run and we got one. My job now is to stay confident and keep it going. Whatever it takes, homer, scratching out a run. Whatever it takes.''

Reporter Joey Johnston can be reached at (813) 259-7353.

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