ST. PETERSBURG - Good things come to those who wait. In the bottom of the 13th inning at the stroke of midnight and after nearly five hours of baseball and record-setting pitching, Tampa Bay Rays' All-Star second baseman Ben Zobrist hit a two-out walk-off RBI single to score Yunel Escobar, giving the Rays a 4-3 victory over the Minnesota Twins before 12,757 at Tropicana Field Wednesday night. The win was the sixth walk-off victory for the Rays this year and fourth of Zobrist's career. "He threw me some good pitches, threw me a good change-up, a good fastball and then I was just fortunate that he left the curve ball slider up in the zone where I could get my hands to it," said Zobrist, who was 0-for-4 with two walks before the game-winning at bat.
The Rays have now won seven straight, the longest streak in Major League Baseball, and eight consecutive home games, during which time they took sole possession of second place in the AL East. Left-handed pitcher Cesar Ramos pitched a shutout 13th inning to earn the win. The Rays bullpen set a season-high and club record of 19 strikeouts, while the 35 combined strikeouts in the game set a franchise record. "The pitches were outstanding on both sides," said Rays manager Joe Maddon. "We walked one and struck out 19 of them and their pitchers struck out 16 of us, but we did walk eight times." In the 13th inning with one out, Escobar singled to reach first and advanced to second on a throwing error, the only error of the game. Following a pop fly to left field by Desmond Jennings, Luke Scott drew a walk to put two runners on. The Rays certainly had their opportunities to take the lead earlier in the game. With Wil Myers on first, Twins center fielder Aaron Hicks snagged the potential game-winner off the wall on deep ball from Kelly Johnson in the bottom of the 10th. In the bottom of the seventh, the Rays had runners on first and third with two outs but James Loney struck out. "You can't say enough about our bullpen tonight," Zobrist said. "Our bullpen was just phenomenal, shutting it down with runners in position at times and a lot of big strikeouts. Our team is feeling good about it; hopefully we can get a sweep (today)." Kyle Farnsworth pitched the 12th inning and one batter in the 13th until he was replaced by Ramos (2-2). Jamey Wright pitched the 10th and 11th innings, allowing one hit with a strikeout. After allowing consecutive hits to start the ninth inning, Rays reliever Fernando Rodney struck out next two batters and welcomed a third out on a grounder to second. Trailing 3-1, Kelly Johnson hit a two-run home run, his 13th of the season, in the bottom of the sixth inning to tie the game. It was also Johnson's 10th game-tying RBI of the season. Starter Jeremy Hellickson pitched six solid innings, allowing six hits and three runs, all earned, with eight strikeout and no walks. Jake McGee pitched a perfect seventh inning in which he struck out the side while Joel Peralta did the same in the eight, only with two strikeouts. The Twins had lost nine of their past 10 games and were riding a three-game losing skid. Twins starting pitcher Kevin Correia pitched 5 1/3 innings with six strikeouts, five walks, five hits and two earned runs. The Rays took a 1-0 lead in the second inning when Yunel Escobar hit a sacrifice fly to right to score Wil Myers. Myers led off the inning with a single, followed by another single from Johnson. Jose Molina laid down a sacrifice bunt to move both runners over to set up Escobar. firstname.lastname@example.org (813) 259-7305 Twitter: @NickWilliamsTBO