Desmond Jennings taketh; Desmond Jennings giveth.
After the Rays' centerfielder's miscue led to two Rangers runs, Jennings earned redemption with a walk off single in the bottom of the twelfth inning to propel his club past the Rangers 4-3, and back into the top wildcard slot.
Rays starter Chris Archer surrendered just two runs over six innings, both coming on a two-out fly ball to centerfield that carried over Jennings' head after he initially broke in on the drive. The play was ruled a triple for Leonys Martin but Jennings should have made the play to end the second inning. Instead, the Rays found themselves trailing early and facing the possibility of losing their grasp on the second wildcard spot.
Countering Archer, Derek Holland started out on fire, surrendering the first seven batters he faced before a Jose Molina single in the third inning. Holland would hold the Rays in check throughout the first five frames before finding himself in a spot of trouble in the sixth inning as Wil Myers singled on a groundball with one out. Unfortunately for the Rays, Demon Young grounded up the middle into a sure-fire double play but Jurickson Profar rushed his throw and pulled Mitch Moreland off the bag allowing Young to be safe and extend the inning.
The Rays would make them pay for giving them an extra out as Sean Rodriguez launched a game-tying blast to left field just two pitches later.
The game would remain tied into extra innings as both team worked through their deep September bullpens. For the Rays, Joel Peralta, Jake McGee, Fernando Rodeny and Jamey Wright would all post scoreless outings while the offense failed to get anything off four Rangers relievers. Roberto Hernandez took the hill for the 11th with the score till tied at two and retired Ian Kinsler before hitting the speedy Elvis Andrus. Joe Maddon turned to Alex Torres who got Alex Rios to pop out but Adrian Beltre would single to rightfield with two outs and a lackadaisical effort from Wil Myers allowed the hustling Andrus to score from first base on a single. Myers took a slow route to the ball and showed no urgency in getting the ball in quickly, probably assuming Andrus would stop at third but Andrus forced the issue and scored easily, setting up the Rays for a costly defeat.
Joe Nathan entered to earn the save and quickly retired Evan Longoria on a pop out and Myers on strikes. With the team down to their last out, and the season hanging in the balance, they turned to the struggling Matt Joyce who worked a walk from Nathan. Freddy Guzman, newly called up straight from the Mexican leagues entirely for his speed entered to pinch run for Joyce as David DeJesus stepped to the plate. Guzman showed why he was called on by adeptly stealing second base off Rangers catcher A.J. Piersinski and the move paid off when DeJesus slapped a single into right field and fist pumped down the line as Guzman scored to tie the game and give the Rays some hope. James Loney struck out to the end the frame and send the game deeper into extras.
In the twelfth inning the Rays bullpen got into trouble again as Torres allowed a lead off double to Jeff Baker and a walk to Craig Gentry. Profar laid down a sacrifice bunt but a nice play by Longoria to Yunel Escobar cut down the runner at second and preserved a double play. With the tension at its crescendo, Torres bore down and retired Martin on a pop up to Escobar and Maddon turned to Brandon Gomes to get Ian Kinsler, which he did by striking out the high-socked righty with three power fastballs.
In the bottom half, Jose Lobaton lead off with a single and was pinch run for by Sam Fuld. Escobar laid down a sacrifice bunt with two strikes and moved Fuld up to second where Desmond Jenning could finish the job with a line drive single to the other way that sent Fuld sliding into home in front of the throw from Rios. Glorious!
The win pushed the Rays back into sole possession of the top wildcard spot, a game and a half ahead of Cleveland and two games ahead of the Orioles. If the Rays can finish the series with a win tomorrow they will earn the tiebreaker over Texas but Rangers ace Yu Darvish stands in their way.