"I thought something was going on here for the last three weeks," said Nick Punto. "It was incredible. The crowd was incredible. I think the fans are feeling what we've been feeling for a month inside the clubhouse. Now that the fans are getting involved, I was standing on second base in the ninth inning and was deafened. There's a lot of excitement in this clubhouse and in L.A., and for good reason."
The Dodgers spotted Price and the Rays three runs in the second inning with a defensive meltdown and Tampa doubled the lead with three more runs in the fifth inning to chase Chris Capuano.
But after scoring an unearned run in the seventh inning and a pair of runs in the eighth on an RBI double by Yasiel Puig and RBI single by Juan Uribe, the Dodgers scored four runs in the ninth off Rodney. Skip Schumaker singled to lead off the ninth and scored one out later on Mark Ellis' triple, his third hit. Punto doubled home Ellis and Adrian Gonzalez doubled home Punto to tie the game at 6-6. Puig was walked intentionally to bring up Jerry Hairston.
Hairston tapped a comebacker to Rodney, who wheeled toward second and tried to start a double play but instead threw the ball into center field as Gonzalez scored from second and the Dodgers rushed the field to celebrate, only the third time this year they've won when trailing after eight innings.
"It was unbelievable, really, it happened so quick," said manager Don Mattingly, who considered removing Gonzalez when down by six runs.
"We will throw this one in the wastebasket as soon as possible and come back ready to play tomorrow," Rays manager Joe Maddon tweeted.
The game lasted five minutes short of four hours, so long that the Dodgers canceled postgame fireworks because of a curfew. It was an exhilarating ending nonetheless to a day that started with an overnight flight home from St. Louis that landed at 2:40 in the morning.
Because of that, Mattingly canceled batting practice, fielded a lineup with only two Opening Day starters and without Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier and A.J. Ellis against Price, the 2012 American League Cy Young winner and Tampa Bay's version of Clayton Kershaw.
Also on the bench for a fifth consecutive start was Hanley Ramirez and his sore right shoulder. He pinch-hit in the seventh inning and struck out.
Price allowed one unearned run on seven hits in seven innings and issued his first walk in 35 1/3 innings. The win went to Ronald Belisario, one of four Dodgers relievers who pitched 4 2/3 scoreless innings, including two by Brandon League.
"Brandon and J.P. [Howell], their innings were huge," Mattingly said.
The Rays scored three runs off Capuano in the second inning, when the Dodgers couldn't catch a routine fly, field a routine grounder or hit the cutoff man. Two runs were singled home by James Loney, who had three hits in his return to Dodger Stadium for the first time since being traded to Boston last summer. Yunel Escobar had three RBIs.
Most of the Dodgers' defensive bungling was in that three-run second inning. Wil Myers' led off with a routine fly to left-center that dropped because of miscommunication between left fielder Hairston and center fielder Puig, both making rare starts at those positions.
That was followed by Punto, starting at shortstop, booting Ben Zobrist's grounder for an error. Then Puig got into the act again, airmailing throws on back-to-back singles by Escobar and Loney, Escobar's driving in one run, Loney's bringing in a pair. Puig's throws overshot the cutoff men and allowed the batter to take second base both times.
The defensive circus continued for the Dodgers in the third when Puig broke back on Ryan Roberts' pop fly in shallow center that dropped for a gift double. Before the inning was over, Ellis missed a tag at second base (according to umpire Doug Eddings), but Capuano pitched out of the mess his teammates created without allowing another run.
"That was the sloppiest I've seen five innings played from this team all season long," Punto said. "It was really ugly, unfortunately for Capuano. We were just very sloppy."
Mattingly said Hairston and Puig had trouble seeing the ball in the twilight sky.
In 4 1/3 innings, Capuano was charged with five earned runs. In his last nine starts, he has allowed five earned runs four times and no runs five times.