St. Petersburg, FL – Evan Longoria hit a game-winning, two- run homer in the bottom of the ninth inning as the Tampa Bay Rays pulled out an 8-7 victory over the San Diego Padres in the middle test of a three-game set at Tropicana Field.
Huston Street (0-2) blew the save while trying to hold a 7-6 San Diego lead heading into the ninth. The right-hander retired the first two batters he faced, but walked Ben Zobrist and then served up Longoria's clutch home run.
"It takes the team to be able to get you up to the plate in those opportunities, and fortunately enough I've been able to come through," Longoria said. "It doesn't get any better than being able to be in the moment and come through, so it feels good."
The Padres had taken the lead after scoring five runs in the seventh. Pinch- hitter Jesus Guzman hit a grand slam and Carlos Quentin walked with the bases loaded.
Tampa Bay starter Jeremy Hellickson entered the seventh with a four-run advantage, but loaded the bases and allowed Guzman's game-tying blast. Reliever Jamey Wright quickly filled the bags again, before Quentin walked to force in a run.
James Loney added a two-run shot and Yunel Escobar drove in two runs for the Rays, winners of four straight. Cesar Ramos (1-0) tossed 2 1/3 scoreless innings to pick up the win.
Tampa Bay led comfortably, 6-2, through six innings before Hellickson broke down in the seventh.
The right-hander had retired 16 consecutive San Diego batters following Yonder Alonso's first-inning single, but quickly loaded the bases with two outs thanks to issuing a walk and a pair of singles. The pinch-hitting Guzman then ended Hellickson's night by clubbing his 3-2 offering over the left field wall for a grand slam to tie the game at 6-6.
To make matters worse in the inning, Wright soon loaded the bases yet again. Everth Cabrera reached first on Zobrist's fielding error, and after he stole second, Wright plunked Will Venable. The next two batters, Chase Headley and Quentin, were also issued walks, with Quentin's giving the Padres a 7-6 lead.
"Hellickson was pitching so well after the first inning," Padres manager Bud Black said. "He had all his pitches working, so our guys hung in there, stayed in the game."
Cesar Ramos finally ended the dreadful inning by striking out Alonso.
Burch Smith, making his major league debut, lasted just one-plus frame and allowed six runs in the second on five hits for San Diego.
In the second, Smith showed signs of looking like a rookie, while Tampa Bay broke out the bats.
Longoria walked to lead off the frame and Loney followed with a home run to right to tie the contest at 2-2. Smith issued another walk to Luke Scott and the next two batters hit consecutive singles to load the bases.
Escobar's single through the left side scored two and Matt Joyce, the last batter Smith would face, plated a run with an RBI double to right. Tyson Ross relieved Smith and gave up Kelly Johnson's sacrifice fly to left, which rounded out the scoring for the hosts in the frame.
Headley smacked his fourth homer of the season, a two-run shot, to give the visitors a 2-0 lead in the first.
The Rays improved to 12-6 at home this season ... It was Longoria's ninth home run of the year ... San Diego optioned pitcher Brad Boxberger to Triple-A Tucson in order to have roster space for Smith ... Tampa Bay went 3-for-10 with runners in scoring position.