Upton's HR caps historic Tampa rally

BY foxsports • May 16, 2009

Down seven runs, the Tampa Bay Rays never felt they were going to lose.

"You could see it in guys' eyes," B.J. Upton said after his ninth-inning homer capped the biggest comeback in franchise history and gave the defending AL champions an 8-7 victory over the Cleveland Indians on Friday night.

"We don't stop playing. The energy was still up in the dugout," Upton added. "There was a lot of game left."

A night after building a 9-0 lead and holding on in the late innings for an 11-7 victory, the last-place Indians jumped out to another big advantage against left-hander Scott Kazmir.

This time it was 7-0 before Cleveland's pitching and defense helped Tampa Bay, which got a strong performance from its bullpen, get back in it.

The Rays scored two runs on throwing errors and a third on a wild pitch before Ben Zobrist led off the bottom of the eighth with a solo homer that made it 7-all.

Upton led off the ninth with his first homer on a 3-2 pitch from Luis Vizcaino (0-1), who signed with Cleveland on Thursday.

"When you don't make your pitch, somebody hits it," said Vizcaino, who hadn't appeared in a game since April 21, when he was with the Chicago Cubs.

Grady Sizemore opened the game with the 19th leadoff home run of his career, breaking a tie with Kenny Lofton for the most in Indians history. Shin-Soo Choo homered for the second straight game, hitting a two-run shot that made it 7-0 in the fourth.

Evan Longoria, Carlos Pena and Willy Aybar drove in runs in the comeback against Indians starter Anthony Reyes and relievers Tony Sipp, Jensen Lewis and Rafael Betancourt, who escaped a bases-loaded jam in the seventh only to give up Zobrist's tying homer in the eighth.

Cleveland's bullpen has been a problem all season.

"It was 9-0 last night. It's 7-0 tonight, and we end up losing the ballgame. At some point, these guys - they've got to look in the mirror," said Indians manager Eric Wedge, who was ejected in the third for contesting a play at the plate.

"When you score seven runs, you should be up at home plate tension free," he added. "Our guys are up there and they're not tension-free for the fact they feel like they've got to score more runs, and that's ridiculous."

Dan Wheeler (1-0) pitched one inning to get the win. The Rays had previously overcome six-run deficits to win on five occasions, most recently on Sept. 24, 2008, at Baltimore, where they trailed 6-0 before winning 11-6.

Kazmir allowed seven runs and 10 hits in 3 1-3 innings - his shortest outing of the season. Since beating Boston and the New York Yankees in his first two starts, the 25-year-old left-hander has yielded 30 runs, 41 hits and 22 walks in his last 28 2-3 innings.

"I'm just in a funk right now, and I'm going to get out of it," Kazmir said.

Reyes retired nine in a row before Upton doubled for Tampa Bay's first hit. The speedy center fielder stole third, giving the Rays at least one swipe in 17 consecutive games, and scored on Pena's RBI single.

The stolen base streak matches the longest in the AL since 1954. The 1976 Athletics and 2001 Yankees each swiped a base in 17 straight, while the longest stretch in the majors during that span is 29 by the 1985 Cardinals.

A second run in the Rays' fourth scored on Choo's throwing error from right field, and Aybar followed with a RBI single that trimmed Cleveland's lead to 7-3.

The Rays pulled within two runs on second baseman Jamey Carroll's throwing error in the sixth, and Jason Bartlett scored on a wild pitch that trimmed the deficit to 7-6 in the seventh.


Rays LF Carl Crawford returned to the lineup after missing one game because of a bruised right shoulder. He had his major league-leading 23rd and 24th steals. ... Indians DH Travis Hafner, who's been on the 15-day disabled list since April 29 because of a sore right shoulder, began a rehab assignment at Triple-A Columbus. ... Rays DH Pat Burrell, who sat out his fourth consecutive game because of a sore neck, received a cortisone shot and will be out Saturday, too. His status will be re-evaluated on Sunday.

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