ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Desmond Jennings redeemed himself for an early defensive miscue with a game-winning hit in the 12th inning.
Jennings’ RBI single gave Tampa Bay a 4-3 victory over the Texas Rangers and the Rays took over the top spot in the AL wild-card race.
“You know what? I want to believe this game has to give us some kind of impetus moving forward,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said.
Texas has a half-game lead over Cleveland, which lost at Kansas City, for the second wild card. The Rangers, who snapped a seven-game losing streak on Tuesday, are 3-13 in September.
Jose Lobaton opened the 12th with a single off Joseph Ortiz (2-2) and pinch-runner Sam Fuld went to second on Yunel Escobar’s bunt. Fuld then scored on Jennings’ hit to right center.
Leonys Martin put Texas up 2-0 with a two-run triple off Chris Archer in the second. Jennings misread the drive in center, first moving in and then couldn’t get back in time as the ball went over his head.
“My confidence is good,” Jennings said. “I just made a bad read on a ball. It’s good to win a game. It definitely felt really good.”
Brandon Gomes (2-1) struck out Ian Kinsler with runners on second and third with two outs in the top of the 12th for the Rays, who have won two of the first three games of the four-game series.
“You talk about the total team victory right there, how about it?” Maddon said. “All kinds of crazy little nuances in the game. That’s why the game is so beautiful. It’s even more beautiful when you win a game like that.”
Texas took a 3-2 lead in the 11th when Elvis Andrus scored from first base on Adrian Beltre’s two-out single.
The Rays tied on David DeJesus’ RBI single in the bottom of the inning as Matt Joyce drew a two-out walk from Rangers closer Joe Nathan. Pinch-runner Freddy Guzman stole second and scored on DeJesus’ hit.
“Against a tough team, we’re battling for that spot right now,” DeJesus said. “To get a hit when we needed it, it was a relief and changed the momentum in the game.”
It was Nathan’s third blown save in 42 chances this season.
“This is tough because we were right where we wanted to be with the right person on the mound,” Texas manager Ron Washington said. “Joe’s been solid for us all year. It just didn’t happen tonight.”
Another tough September outing for the Rangers.
“If it was the last game and we weren’t in it because of it, that would be the toughest loss,” Nathan said. “But we’re still in the postseason aren’t we? I can’t see how this can be the toughest loss. We get another opportunity tomorrow.”
Sean Rodriguez, who had just two hits in his previous 16 at-bats against Rangers’ starter Derek Holland, tied it at 2-all in the sixth with a two-run homer off the left-hander.
Rodriguez made a diving catch in shallow left with one out in the ninth to take a hit away from A.J. Pierzynski.
Archer gave up two runs and four hits over six innings. Holland, who went 0-3 with a 10.13 ERA in his previous three starts, allowed two runs and six hits in six innings.
NOTES: Tampa Bay LHP Matt Moore (15-3) will go against Texas RHP Yu Darvish (12-9) in Thursday night’s series finale. “This is the most fun time of the year for us,” Moore said. … Rays reliever Jesse Crain (strained right shoulder) is scheduled to pitch in an instructional league game on Thursday. … Lance Berkman (hip and knee), 0 for 12 in five games since being reinstated from the DL on Sept. 1, still can’t swing right-handed but remains in the Rangers’ left-handed DH mix. “I know he hasn’t done a heck of a lot, but he’s one of those guys who can wake up on a cold day with snow out there and get a base hit,” Washington said.