BOSTON (AP) — When their game against Boston was postponed Wednesday due to inclement weather, the Tampa Bay Rays made it clear they had no interest in playing a doubleheader Thursday.
The Red Sox got their way. The Rays got the last laugh.
Yunel Escobar homered off Boston closer Koji Uehara leading off the ninth inning to propel Tampa Bay to a 6-5 win and a day-night doubleheader sweep on Thursday night. The Rays won the opener 2-1.
“I really believe that we had vociferously fought for just one game, for a lot of obvious reasons,” said Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon. “I mean, I’m not going to hide from the reasons — we have a lot of guys injured, we had a lot of very difficult games more recently, so we wanted one game and pick it up later when we’re at greater health.
“It just did not work out that way, thus our players came out and made a statement today and I kind of enjoyed it.”
Escobar crushed the second pitch from Uehara (0-1) over the Green Monster in left field for his second homer of the year, and Grant Balfour recorded the final three outs for his second save of the day and sixth of the season.
“He’s a very good relief pitcher and it was a very uncomfortable at-bat,” Escobar said through a translator. “(I) got a splitter up and (I) just tried to get good wood on the ball and (I) was able to hit it out.”
Sean Rodriguez and Desmond Jennings also went deep for last-place Tampa Bay, which won for just the third time in nine games.
“I didn’t know we didn’t want to play. No one asked me,” Balfour said with a laugh. “I’m pretty happy that we did.”
So is Maddon.
“I’m so proud of our guys, the way they handled the entire moment,” he said. “Nobody complained about anything. Nothing — and they just went out and played really good baseball for 18 innings. It was pretty astounding to watch the whole thing play out.”
The first game was just as wild, but for an entirely different reason.
With Tampa Bay leading 2-1 in the seventh, Dustin Pedroia was called out on a close play at the plate, thrown out on a relay from Escobar at shortstop while attempting to score from first on Ortiz’s double high off the Monster.
After a 1 minute, 52 second delay, it was announced the call “stands.”
Boston third base coach Brian Butterfield was ejected by first base umpire Toby Basner for slamming his helmet to the ground.
“I just don’t like the whole inconclusive deal,” said Pedroia, who didn’t think he was tagged before crossing the plate. “Replay, you should go check it out and you’re either out or safe. I don’t know what inconclusive means. Maybe that means someone doesn’t want to make a decision.”
Pedroia may have beaten catcher Jose Molina’s sweeping tag with a feet-first slide, but it was unclear if he touched the plate before the tag.
Basner, rotating as the umpires moved on the play, made the call at the plate.
“I thought not only did Dustin beat the throw, beat the tag, but felt like his left foot made some contact with home plate,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “Our video internally showed that that was the case.”
The Rays then charged back from a 5-2 deficit in the nightcap.
Rodriguez’s two-run homer off Boston starter Felix Doubront in the sixth brought Tampa Bay within one, and Rodriguez tied it in the seventh off reliever Junichi Tazawa, doubling and scoring on James Loney’s single.
Uehara then uncharacteristically surrendered Escobar’s blast, just the fourth homer he has allowed at Fenway Park since joining Boston before last season.
“It happens every year, April, May,” Uehara said through a translator. “I think even last year I didn’t pitch that well.”
NOTES: It was the first doubleheader for both teams since last year when the Red Sox swept the Rays in Fenway Park on June 18. … The Rays open a three-game series against the New York Yankees on Friday. Tampa Bay LHP David Price (3-2, 4.75) will oppose New York LHP Vidal Nuno (0-0, 6.59). . Boston will host the Oakland Athletics for a three-game series beginning Friday, with Red Sox RHP Clay Buchholz (1-2, 6.66) facing Athletics’ RHP Dan Straily (1-1, 5.14).