Game 81: Yunel Escobar’s Single Gives Rays Walkoff Win Over Tigers

By David Hill

If there is one thing that has been a hallmark for the Rays aside for their pitching, it has been how they will continue to fight despite the odds against them. Facing Justin Verlander, the Rays needed every bit of that resolve.

After getting out of a jam in the first inning, the Tigers got to Rays starter Chris Archer in the third. Austin jackson led off the inning with a home run, and Detroit put runners on first and second with two out. After a wild pitch moved the runners up, Jhonny Peralta singled, giving the Tigers a 3-0 lead. With Justin Verlander on the mound, that type of lead is generally the equivalent of six or seven runs.

However, the Rays did what they always seem to do – fight back. In the bottom of the inning, Desmond Jennings tripled with one out, scoring on a groundout. After Archer worked out of another jam in the top of the fifth, the Rays put together a rally of their own. With runners on first and third, James Loney singled to cut the lead to 3-2. Verlander then got Wil Myers to ground into a double play to end the threat, and the Tigers escaped with the lead still intact.

Yet, the Rays were not done. With one out in the eighth, Luke Scott broke out of a 2-15 slump with a home run to right, tying the game and setting the stage for a battle of the bullpens. Fernando Rodney came in for the top of the ninth, and worked around a Brayan Pena double to preserve the tie. After Drew Smyly struck out the side in the bottom of the frame, the game headed to extra innings.

Rodney was involved in a bit of excitement right off the bat. Miguel Cabrera led off the inning, and took exception to a pitch that Rodney threw up and in to move him off the plate. After Cabrera struck out, he began yelling at the Rays dugout. Detroit manager Jim Leyland also took exception to the pitch, saying so after the game.

"“I don’t care about throwing inside, but I don’t like it up there, and we will not tolerate that,” Leyland said. “I’m not accusing anybody of anything but we won’t tolerate that. If you’re going to just rare back and throw it, you can’t throw it there. That’ll cause a lot of problems for people. That’s not a good idea. That’s not acceptable.”"

That just helped to set the stage for the bottom of the inning. With one out, Loney singled, and was replaced by pinch runner Sam Fuld. Myers singled to move Fuld to second, then both runners moved up on a two out wild pitch by Bruce Rondon. Two pitches later, Yunel Escobar lined a ball to center over the head of Jackson, plating Fuld for the walkoff victory.

Rodney earned the win, giving up two hits and striking out two in two scoreless innings of relief. Archer struggled at times, giving up three runs on five hits and three walks in five innings. Loney and Ben Zobrist were each 3-5 with an RBI in the win.