After changing Maddon's mind, Balfour locks up win

Coming off blown save, closer gets Papi to ground out in Game 1

After changing Maddon's mind, Balfour locks up win

BOSTON -- Grant Balfour wanted David Ortiz -- and he got what he wanted, retiring the Red Sox slugger to preserve the Rays' 2-1 win in the first game of Thursday's doubleheader at Fenway Park.

The win snapped a three-game losing skid for the Rays (12-16), who moved to 2-4 on their current 10-game road trip.

Tampa Bay took a 2-1 lead into the ninth and handed the ball to Balfour in the hopes its closer could get the final three outs. After striking out Jackie Bradley Jr. to start the inning, Balfour gave up a single to Dustin Pedroia. Shane Victorino then dropped a bunt that moved Pedroia to second, bringing Ortiz to the plate.

Manager Joe Maddon then made a mound visit to tell Balfour that he wanted him to walk the Red Sox slugger with the open base. But "Aussie Rage" prevailed when Balfour convinced Maddon to let him pitch to Ortiz.

"I was pretty adamant, I guess," Balfour said. "In the end, he just said, 'All right, just go get it.'"

Maddon could not remember the other pitcher who got him to change his mind, but he allowed that it had only happened once before.

"My method is to make up my mind before you cross the [base] line," Maddon said. "So by the time you're on the other side of the line, you have to be locked in to what you want to do, but [Balfour] felt that strongly about it."

Maddon chuckled about his return to the Rays' bench afterward.

"I came back in and said, 'He wanted the lefty,' so I just went and sat in my corner," Maddon said.

Balfour got ahead in the count 0-2 before Ortiz grounded out to Balfour to end the game.

On Friday night in Chicago, Balfour blew his first save of the season, so earning his fifth save of the season had a soothing feeling.

"For me, it was big, because it's a mindset," Balfour said. "Last game in Chicago, I didn't have the right mindset. I was pitching away from contact. I just wasn't aggressive in the zone. I wasn't aggressive with my pitches. Today, it was a totally different ballgame. … I just like the way I went about my business today. Things were sharp."

Cesar Ramos started for the Rays and had a difficult beginning when Pedroia drew a leadoff walk and scored two outs later on an RBI single by Jonny Gomes.

Despite using 35 pitches, Ramos escaped a bases-loaded jam and overcame an error by first baseman James Loney by retiring Will Middlebrooks on a flyball to end the inning.

"I made a mess in that first inning and luckily I was able to minimize the damage," Ramos said.

Ramos allowed one run on one hit and six walks while striking out six over 4 2/3 frames to receive a no-decision.

Ramos tied a career high for strikeouts in a single game and set a new high for walks.

"Definitely not how you want to draw it up," Ramos said. "But it's frustrating, because if I get half those walks, I'm in the sixth or seventh inning."

Ortiz drew the final walk against Ramos with two outs in the fifth, which prompted Maddon to bring on Brandon Gomes to face Mike Napoli with two on board.

Gomes retired Napoli on a pop out to preserve the Rays' 2-1 lead.

Gomes added a scoreless inning in the sixth before Jake McGee took over in the seventh, allowing a leadoff single to Pedroia. One out later, Ortiz doubled off the Green Monster and Pedroia tried to score from first. However, left fielder Matt Joyce threw a strike to Yunel Escobar, and the shortstop fired the ball to catcher Jose Molina, who tagged out a sliding Pedroia.

The Red Sox disagreed with the call, prompting manager John Farrell to ask for a review, but the call stood. In the aftermath of the decision, third-base coach Brian Butterfield was ejected when he protested the verdict. McGee then struck out Napoli swinging to end the threat.

Each manager viewed the play at the plate differently.

"I thought not only did Dustin beat the throw, beat the tag, but felt like his left foot made some contact with home plate," Farrell said. "Our video internally showed that that was the case, and upon review, the call came back, it stood. Felt like there wasn't conclusive evidence to overturn the call on the field."

Maddon noted: "From what I understand, he never touched the plate and that was a big part of that call from what I understand regarding the review."

Even Molina wasn't sure about what happened. When asked if Pedroia was out, the veteran catcher noted: "I didn't see it. ... I catch it and just swipe."

Joel Peralta pitched a scoreless eighth leading up to Balfour in the ninth.

David DeJesus provided the offense for the Rays. In the third, he homered off Red Sox starter Jake Peavy, curling a blast around Pesky's Pole in right. DeJesus added an RBI in the fourth when he drew a two-out, bases-loaded walk to put the Rays up 2-1.

"That ball was really well struck," Maddon said. "And he didn't have a good history with Peavy coming into the game, either, so it's nice to see that. David's just been working better at-bats. You saw the walk. He's not jumpy right now, the ball's coming to him. He just looks like he did when we got him at the end of last season."

The first game of Thursday's doubleheader was the makeup game from Wednesday night's rainout, which the Rays had hoped to play later in the season. But having played the game, and coming away with the win, changed the tune in Tampa Bay's clubhouse.

"Totally feel much better about it," Maddon said. "It was a great idea to play that game this afternoon. I wish I would have thought of it myself."

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