Rays 9, White Sox 7
As if there wasn't enough drama already with Manny Ramirez retiring, Dan Johnson added another - more welcome - big twist to Tampa Bay's day.
Johnson hit a three-run homer to cap a five-run ninth Friday night, and the Rays rallied for their first win of the season, 9-7 over the Chicago White Sox, hours after Ramirez retired rather than face a 100-game suspension for violating baseball's drug policy for the second time.
''No feeling like it. It makes everything better,'' Johnson said. ''We were just talking about how the food tastes so much better. (Losing) leaves such a bad taste in your mouth. Everything seems better right now.''
The Rays appeared to be on their way to another loss after dropping their first six games, but that changed in a hurry in the ninth.
Trailing 7-4, pinch-hitter Elliot Johnson singled off Matt Thornton (0-1) leading off with a single and scored from second with one out when Alexei Ramirez threw wildly to first after fielding Sam Fuld's grounder to short. Juan Pierre then dropped Johnny Damon's fly to left, putting runners on first and second, before B.J. Upton delivered an RBI single to left to make it a one-run game.
Johnson, who came into the game with a .043 average, then drove the first pitch out to right to make it 9-7.
After Casey Kotchman flew to center, John Jaso singled. Will Ohman then retired Ben Zobrist on a fly to end the rally.
That made a winner out of Adam Russell (1-0). Farnsworth pitched the ninth for his first save.
''It's a sense of relief,'' Johnson said. ''I was panicking so much, trying to stay loose and hadn't been able to do it up there. It really helps out, confidence-wise.''
Thornton, meanwhile, continues to struggle in the early going and blew his second save in as many chances.
His meltdown spoiled a big day for Gordon Beckham and Mark Teahen, who each had three hits and a homer, and denied John Danks his first win. Alexei Ramirez went deep off James Shields, and the White Sox looked like they were going to win their third straight without slugger Adam Dunn, who's recovering from an appendectomy.
Instead, the Rays staged a dramatic rally. Even so, the big news came before the game.
Manager Joe Maddon expected to have Manny Ramirez back in the cleanup spot after he had left the team earlier in the week to tend to what was called a personal matter.
Instead, they were saying goodbye to one of the most accomplished and controversial sluggers the game has seen, someone they were just getting to know. The 12-time All-Star agreed to a $2 million, one-year contract in the offseason, hoping to re-establish himself as an elite hitter, but that didn't happen.
Ramirez was suspended for 50 games for violating the drug policy in 2009, when he was with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
''When you lose seven games in a row, it normally takes something very awkward to get you righted,'' manager Joe Maddon said. ''It began today by Manny retiring and culminated with Johnson hitting a home run against one of the better left-handed relievers in baseball. That's the unpredictability of our game.''
Danks allowed four runs and six hits while walking four. He left leading 5-3 after Tampa Bay loaded the bases with none out in the seventh.
Jesse Crain came on to face Damon, who had homered earlier, and got him to ground into a force that made it a one-run game. Upton then struck out and Johnson lined to center to end the rally.
Crain retired the side in the eighth before Thornton coughed it up.
''We know he's going to get outs,'' Danks said. ''He's the same guy as he was when he was throwing in the seventh and eighth innings. We like having him out there. I think today was a fluky deal. There wasn't a whole lot he could have done different.''
Shields, meanwhile, had a rough time against the White Sox.
He allowed five runs and eight hits and was lifted with none out in the seventh after he hit Brent Morel in the left wrist and a bunting Juan Pierre reached on an error by Johnson at first.
Joel Peralta came on and tagged out Morel trying to score on a pitch that got by catcher Kelly Shoppach, who immediately left the game with a sore right knee and was replaced by Jaso.
NOTES: The Rays recalled Kotchman to take Ramirez's spot on the roster. ... Chicago's Jake Peavy, on the 15-day disabled list with tendinitis in his right shoulder, allowed two unearned runs and five hits in 3 2-3 innings for Double-A Birmingham at Montgomery. He threw 71 pitches, 43 for strikes.