Devil Rays walk off with win

Devil Rays walk off with win

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Devil Rays won't be participating in the postseason, so they carved out their own little piece of October on Tuesday night against the greatest postseason team in the history of baseball.

Jonny Gomes drew an 11th-inning walk off Scott Proctor with the bases loaded that scored Carl Crawford and gave the Rays a 4-3 win over the Yankees, affording the 20,678 at Tropicana Field everything they could have wanted to see from the home team.

Crawford doubled off Alan Embree with one out in the 11th, which chased the left-hander in favor of Proctor to pitch to the right-handed hitting Jorge Cantu. Before Proctor even threw a pitch, however, he balked, sending Crawford to third and forcing the Yankees to draw in their infield to cut off the run at the plate.

Cantu hit the ball sharply, but right at Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez, who threw to first for the second out. Eduardo Perez then stepped into the batter's box.

Perez had already hit a two-run homer off Yankees starter Randy Johnson in the seventh and followed with a dramatic game-tying home run off Yankees closer Mariano Rivera in the ninth that sent the game to extra innings. This time, he drew a walk.

The Yankees elected to intentionally walk Aubrey Huff to load the bases for the intrepid rookie Gomes, who wanted to take a rip.

"It was really hard [not to swing] because ... he intentionally walked a guy to get to me," Gomes said. "I've seen [Proctor] a lot of times. We've had a lot of run-ins down in [Triple-A] Columbus."

Proctor walked Gomes on four straight pitches to force in the winning run. Later, when asked if any of Proctor's pitches were close to the strike zone, Gomes said no.

"I'm not worried about the pitch choice as much as how I put the execution," Proctor said. "All it took was one good pitch and the game is over. ... No matter how hard it is, all I had to do was throw it right, and it cost us the game."

Rays starter Doug Waechter got off to an inauspicious beginning when Alex Gonzalez, who started at shortstop with regular shortstop Julio Lugo nursing a sore hand, booted leadoff hitter Derek Jeter's groundball in the first. A few batters later, Hideki Matsui delivered a two-run single.

But Perez, who was in the game for his bat, helped pick up his pitcher with his glove in the second inning. After Waechter gave up a run-scoring single to John Flaherty, the Yankees loaded the bases. That's when Perez stabbed Robinson Cano's hot shot down the first-base line. Perez recovered in time to make a throw to the plate that forced out Flaherty.

"That was just reaction," Perez said. "Cano hit the heck out of that ball."

Waechter then struck out Gary Sheffield and got Rodriguez to ground out to Gonzalez to end the inning.

"I just told myself, 'Get as many innings as you can,'" Waechter said. "I was putting the pitches where I wanted to. I told myself to keep making pitches and battling."

Waechter settled into a nice rhythm that allowed him to last nine innings. He finished with one earned run allowed on nine hits.

"Waechter pitched a [heck] of a game," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "He was probably one hitter away from coming out of the game, but Eduardo Perez makes a great play with the bases loaded. We were shut down after that."

Perez, who hit two home runs off Randy Johnson on Apr. 19 at Yankee Stadium, now has four career home runs off the Big Unit in 25 career at-bats. He explained his success against Johnson by saying, "I think facing [Johnson] makes you a better player. He's a Hall of Famer -- it makes you rise up."

Rays manager Lou Piniella made a strategic decision in the eighth when he used Travis Lee as a pinch-hitter, but did not take Perez out of the game; rather, he moved him to third base. And the move paid a big dividend when Perez homered off Rivera.

"I just focused," Perez said. "You go out there and see he gets guys out upstairs. I was just making sure I didn't give in on the high pitch."

Piniella called the Rays' victory a "nice win" but smiled when Tuesday night's game and playoff atmosphere were used in the same sentence. He then added: "Now, when you get to Yankee Stadium with 55,900 people in the stands and it's October ..."

Bill Chastain is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.