ST. PETERSBURG — It was, Joe Maddon said, a signature win. And to emphasize his point, he moved his right hand in the air as if he were signing his name.
Or writing Tampa Bay Rays.
Or writing something, however he wanted to sign the Rays 4-3, 12th-inning win Wednesday night against the Texas Rangers in front of 14,827 at Tropicana Field.
“I want to believe this game has to give us some kind of impetus moving forward,” the Rays' manager said.
The Rays moved back into first place in the American League wild-card standings, a game ahead of the Rangers. That also extended their lead over the Cleveland Indians to 1˝ games.
The victory came when Desmond Jennings redeemed himself from another fielding miscue in center field with a one-out single in the 12th inning that scored Sam Fuld from second base with the winning run.
“I definitely wanted to redeem myself a little bit,” Jennings said.
It was the Rays' 11th walk-off win of the season, and the second walk-off hit this year for Jennings.
Fuld was pinch-running for Jose Lobaton, who singled to start the inning. Yunel Escobar moved Fuld into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt.
It was little things like that, which allowed the Rays to win for the second time in this series and for the fifth time in their last seven games.
There was Freddy Guzman, who joined the team Tuesday for the sole purpose of stealing bases, stealing second base in the 11th inning and scoring on a single by David DeJesus to make it a 3-3 game.
“He's definitely something nice to have,” Sean Rodriguez said.
There was Matt Joyce, just two hits this month, working a two-out walk in the 11th inning that allowed Guzman the chance to pinch-run and DeJesus the chance to get a big hit.
“We're battling for that spot and to be able to get a hit when we needed it, it was a relief,” DeJesus said. “It changed the momentum in the game, and we felt like we were going to be able to push that run across.”
There was Brandon Gomes, who replaced Alex Torres with two-out and runners at second and third in the top of the 12th inning and struck out Ian Kinsler on three pitches to preserve the 3-3 tie and set up the bottom of the inning.
There was Rodriguez, whose two-run homer in the bottom of the sixth inning tied the score at 2-2.
“He threw me a pitch in can hit,” Rodriguez said. “I was fortunate I got a good barrel on it.”
There was Joel Peralta, who pitched in his first game since allowing four two-out runs during the eighth inning of Sunday's loss in Minnesota, and retired all four batters he faced.
And Jake McGee and Fernando Rodney and Jamey Wright, who each came out of the bullpen and shut down the Rangers bats.
There was Chris Archer, who gave the Rays what they needed from a starter – six innings.
Archer would have pitched shutout ball, too, had Jennings not misplayed a second inning line drive by Leonys Martin. With two on and two out, Jennings took two steps in on the ball hit right at him. After he realized the ball was carrying, Jennings spun around and raced toward the wall, leaping to make the catch.
He didn't and two runs scored.
“He hit is harder than I thought he did,” Jennings said. “I just misread it.”
There was also Wil Myers, who wasn't aggressive enough on Adrian Beltre's line single to right-center field in the top of the 11th inning. Elvis Andrus took advantage and scored all the way from first base to give the Rangers a 3-2 lead.
“I should have charged the ball more aggressive. It's one of those things you learn from and don't ever let it happen again,” said Myers, who added he needs to realize who is running during situations like that.
TV cameras caught Myers saying, “Thank God,” in the dugout when DeJesus singled home Guzman with the tying run in the bottom of the inning.
“I was, man. I felt bad about what had happened, especially in this game that means so much that I could let something like that happen,” Myers said. “It's one of those things you learn from and don't let happen again.”
Calling it a signature win is as close as Maddon came to calling it a “big” win.
Yet with 11 games to play and with Yu Darvish going tonight for the Rangers against Matt Moore - and with the Baltimore Orioles, who are 3˝ games out of the wild-card spot coming to town Friday for another four-game series and a three-games series next week in the Bronx against the New York Yankees, who are 3˝ games out of a wild-card spot - well, Wednesday's win was pretty significant.
“It's not time to let any wins get away from us that we can get, so it was big,” Rodriguez said.
“It's huge,” DeJesus said. “We're a bunch of resilient guys and we're not giving up until the last out is made.”
Maddon mentioned all the little things that happened and a few of the big ones and signed his name in the air.
“So all that stuff I want to believe will give us some kind of push,” he said.