ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — In another time or situation, Ben Zobrist might have dropped down a bunt.
Instead manager Joe Maddon told the Rays shortstop to swing away, and Zobrist delivered a two-run walk-off home run in the 11th inning of Tampa Bay’s 3-1 victory over the Texas Rangers on Friday night.
“I’ve never had a walk-off home run before in my life, regardless of whether it was Little League or high school or college,” Zobrist said. “I thought about if it was ever going to happen, but when you’re in the moment you just try to have a good, quality at bat.”
Zobrist’s 16th homer came off Mark Lowe (0-1) after a leadoff walk to B.J. Upton.
Maddon reminded Zobrist not to bunt because with Upton on second base, the Rangers probably would have walked Evan Longoria, the Rays’ next hitter.
“If (Upton) stole a bag, then I would have (bunted),” Zobrist said.
For Zobrist, the home run was a perfect finish to a night that started with his wife, Julianna, singing the national anthem.
“That may be the first time in Major League Baseball history that happens, where the wife sings the national anthem and the husband hits a walk-off homer,” Maddon observed. “Maybe Honus Wagner and his wife, back in the day. Whenever amplification came on board, you’d have to check that out.”
Wade Davis (3-0) got the win after striking out five of the six hitters he faced in the 10th and 11th innings.
The Rays’ fifth win in six games featured a total of 29 strikeouts after a duel between starting pitchers Derek Holland of the Rangers and the Rays’ Jeremy Hellickson.
Holland struck out a career-high 11 while giving up only two hits and two walks in eight innings. He threw a season-high 116 pitches, retiring five Rays in a span of seven pitches at one point.
Longoria’s fourth-inning homer, his 11th, was the first hit off Holland, who was trying to win a fourth straight start for the first time in his career.
“I’m definitely pleased, but at the same time I’m pretty upset,” Holland said. “A win is what we really want.”
It was the second straight extra-inning game for the Rangers, who arrived at their hotel at 4:40 a.m., Friday after a 5-4, 10-inning win at Kansas City on Thursday night.
Hellickson pitched six innings, giving up four hits including a home run to Michael Young in the fifth inning. It was Young’s seventh home run and his third in the last five days.
David Murphy walked after Young’s homer, and then Hellickson and four relievers retired the next 17 Rangers in order. The Rays bullpen gave up one single in five innings.
“The fifth inning was a little long,” Hellickson said. “I could have gone back out, but with the bullpen we have, there was no reason not to go to them. I mean, they’ve been doing that all season.”
NOTES: Rays 17-game winner David Price has been scratched from his Saturday start because of shoulder soreness. Rookie RHP Chris Archer, called up from Double-A Montgomery on Friday, will start against the Rangers on Saturday night. Maddon expects Price’s next start to come next weekend at New York . . . Matt Harrison, the Rangers’ 15-game winner, had his next start pushed back from Sunday here to Tuesday at home against Cleveland.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.