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LAA@TB: Joyce races home on wild pitch to win it

ST. PETERSBURG -- Turnabout seemed to be fair play for the Rays on Saturday afternoon in a game that saw Matt Joyce score on a wild pitch in the 10th inning to give the Rays a 2-1 walk-off win over the Angels.

With the win, the Rays moved to 15-12 on the season, giving the team its second-best April in club history. In the process Tampa Bay became the first team to ever lose its first six games and finish April with a winning record. Forty-six teams have lost their first six games since 1900.

A Tropicana Field crowd of 20,245 watched as Joyce doubled off Fernando Rodney to lead off the 10th. One out later, he moved to third on a Casey Kotchman groundout, bringing Felipe Lopez to the plate. Rodney got ahead of Lopez, 1-2, before uncorking a wild pitch, allowing Joyce to race home with the winning run.

"I don't know if it was a slider or a changeup, but [catcher] Hank [Conger] did all he could," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "That would have been an incredible stop if he would have got it."

Joyce said Rays third-base coach Tom Foley laid out the plan for him.

"Foley was making sure that I was ready for a wild pitch," Joyce said. "He actually called it on that pitch. He said, 'Be ready right here, just in case he throws it in the dirt.' He threw it in the dirt, and I ended up scoring the winning run."

Joe Maddon saluted what Kotchman did to help set up the first walk-off win in team history that came via a wild pitch.

"The fact he was able to move the runner to third base by moving the baseball was huge," the Rays manager said. "Especially with a guy like Rodney pitching, who is going to throw some balls in the dirt. And he can take away one of his better pitches."

That break seemed to even the ledger, after the way the Angels scored to tie the game in the ninth.

Torii Hunter doubled off James Shields to lead off the inning. Kyle Farnsworth took over and retired Howard Kendrick on a fielder's-choice grounder back to the box that moved Hunter to third. Erick Aybar then grounded to Ben Zobrist at second with the infield drawn in. Hunter made a dash for the plate, but Zobrist bobbled the ball and had to take the out at first, allowing Hunter to tie the score at 1.

"It was an evening out of bad breaks," said Maddon of the game's two biggest plays. "I think you could have had Hunter at the plate, had he been able to throw it. But that's the way they play, [putting] pressure on the defense. And that's something I'm a big believer in, too. They won out on that particular play."

Until the ninth, Shields' bid for his third consecutive complete game was the major story.

Shields started for the Rays on the heels of two consecutive complete games, and he continued to pitch in dominant fashion. The right-hander held the Angels without a baserunner through 4 1/3 innings, while striking out six on 47 pitches.

Kendrick got the Angels' first hit when he roped a single between third and shortstop in the fifth. Aybar then singled through the middle before Conger's dribbler down the third-base line turned into a base hit to load the bases with one out.

Shields remained calm, striking out Peter Bourjos and Alexi Amarista -- both swinging -- to end the threat.

"I knew right then and there, bases loaded, I believe it was a tie ballgame at the time, [that] I had to bear down," Shields said. "And I ended up striking two guys out to end the inning."

Kelly Shoppach helped erase a threat in the eighth. Bourjos led off the inning with a single to right, then tried to steal second on a 2-0 pitch to Amarista. The Rays' catcher made a perfect throw to shortstop Reid Brignac to nail the Angels' speedster for the first out of the inning.

Shields finished with 12 strikeouts and a no-decision. The Angels' run in the ninth was charged to the right-hander, thereby snapping his club-record scoreless-innings streak at 21 innings. He fell one inning short of becoming the first Rays pitcher to ever throw three consecutive complete games.

Joel Pineiro started for the Angels, and the right-hander held the Rays scoreless for four innings before Joyce led off the fifth with his second homer of the season to put the Rays up, 1-0.

Despite not getting the win, Shields looked at the big picture and smiled about Saturday afternoon's result.

"We won the ballgame, that's all that really matters," Shields said. "Any time you get a win, everybody's happy."

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