PITTSBURGH - The game that looked as if it might never get started didn't seem to want to end.
It finally did, though, with one big two-strike, two-out swing from Pirates left fielder Jason Bay in the bottom of the 13th inning that gave Pittsburgh a 4-3 victory Saturday against the Rays.
Bay rocketed a 2-2 pitch from Jason Hammel into the bullpen beyond the center-field wall to send the Pirates streaming out of their dugout in celebration after 3 hours, 53 minutes of play - not including the 42-minute rain delay before the game even began.
Tampa Bay saw its longest road winning streak since taking seven in a row away from Tropicana Field in June 2004 halted at four games. The loss cost the Rays a chance to move into first place, and in fact a win would have given them the best record in baseball after the Cubs and Red Sox lost earlier Saturday.
"Listen, I am not upset," said Rays manager Joe Maddon. "We've had a great road trip to this point. You're going to lose some games sometimes, the other team's going to beat you, and that's what happened tonight."
For a while, it looked like the game might not get played at all. Shortly before the scheduled start time, violent thunderstorms swept through Pittsburgh - at times obscuring the view of the downtown skyline across the Allegheny River that is PNC Park's trademark. Those storms passed quickly, but the rain returned around the sixth inning and continued for the duration.
The fact that the game lasted as long as it did was a credit to Gary Glover. The reliever turned in his longest and most impressive outing of the season, holding the Pirates scoreless through the ninth, 10th and 11th innings.
Hammel couldn't make it pay off, though, as the seldom-used converted starter surrendered the walk-off homer in his second inning of relief. Hammel said he was just trying to be aggressive with Bay and got hurt on a fastball that was supposed to be down and away but stayed over the plate.
"Maybe a case of throwing too many strikes, but just not a good pitch there," said Hammel. "Obviously he was sitting on it and he got it - ballgame over."
Maddon praised the work done by all of his pitchers, including Hammel. In addition to Glover, Trever Miller and Dan Wheeler also turned in scoreless stints in relief of Edwin Jackson.
Jonny Gomes made sure the proceedings got to extra innings with an epic at-bat leading off the eighth inning. The slugger hasn't seen much playing time lately, but he watched a game's worth of pitches from Damaso Marte - 15 of them, nine of which he fouled off - before crushing the last of them over the center field wall to make it 3-3. Shawn Riggans caught it on the fly in the Rays' bullpen.
Gomes was pinch-hitting for Eric Hinske, who scored the Rays' previous tying run in the sixth when he doubled and came around on a Dioner Navarro single. And it was Hinske who was on the top step of the Rays' dugout after Gomes circled the bases, screaming in his buddy's face to welcome him back.
"I really didn't know it was 15 pitches until I came in and watched [the video] - I truly thought it was like eight or nine," said Gomes. "It's been a while since I was able to get in there and see some pitches. Fastball-slider guy, I just wanted to stay in and kept battling. Leadoff hitter late in the game, I was just trying to get on base any way I could and made some good contact."
Gomes had been hitless in his previous 12 at-bats, striking out seven times, since homering off Mark Hendrickson on June 14, and was mired in a 9-for-61 slump that dropped his average nearly 100 points. He'll get a start today against left-hander Tom Gorzelanny, giving him a chance to keep climbing out of the hole.
Jackson is making some progress in that direction, as the right-hander posted his second consecutive quality start after going six straight outings without one. He generally pitched well Saturday, but three mistakes led to the three runs he allowed.
Jackson walked only two batters, but both led off innings and both recipients - Ryan Doumit in the second inning and Adam LaRoche in the seventh - eventually scored.
Perhaps more galling was the strike he threw to Pirates pitcher Ty Taubenheim with a 3-1 count in the fifth. Jackson got too much of the plate with Jose Bautista on second after a leadoff double and Taubenheim yanked one down the left-field line for an RBI ground-rule double.
It was, as Gomes said, "a weird game" of the type the Rays generally have won this season. Saturday's game was just their second loss in seven extra-inning tilts this season.
"When you win a game like that it's a tough win; when you lose a game like that it's a tough loss," said Maddon. "A lot of things that transpired in that game could have gone another way but didn't."