ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP)—Rey Sanchez ended his long home run drought in dramatic fashion.
“I’m still dizzy,” Sanchez said after his first homer in 745 at-bats.
His previous homer came April 30, 2002, against Baltimore’s Calvin Maduro, and he’s hit just two in his past 1,840 at-bats.
“What a way to finish a ballgame,” Tampa Bay manager Lou Piniella said.
Sanchez hit a liner to right field off Shawn Chacon (0-3) that went all the way to the wall after Jeromy Burnitz missed a shoestring catch attempt. Center fielder Choo Freeman backed up the play and retrieved the ball, but Sanchez was already headed home with the winning run.
“I made a mistake,” Burnitz said. “You’ve got to keep the ball in front of you right there. I just read it off the bat like I could catch it and went after it and it died. I thought I had it all the way to be honest with you.”
Freeman’s throw went toward third, prompting third base coach Tom Foley to send Sanchez home.
“I figured he wasn’t going to get there that fast,” Freeman said. “I thought he was going to be going to third. My mind was set to throw to third because I thought I got to the ball quick enough.”
Sanchez has 14 career homers in 4,638 at-bats.
“I was looking at the coach for him to stop me,” Sanchez said. “I was thinking triple all the way. I saw him wave me on and saw the ball rolling. It was exciting.”
The victory moved Piniella into a tie for 22nd place all-time with Jimmy Dykes with 1,406 wins.
“When my career is over, I can sit back and then reflect,” Piniella said. “Right now, I’m interested in our baseball team playing good baseball and winning games.”
Matt Holliday opened the 10th with a double off Danys Baez (3-1). After Charles Johnson popped out and Luis Gonzalez struck out during an 11-pitch at-bat, Holliday stole third. But the Rockies outfielder was left stranded there when Freeman struck out.
Todd Helton, who went 4-for-5 with five RBIs, put the Rockies up 7-6 with a two-run homer in the ninth off Baez on a 10-pitch at-bat.
Julio Lugo tied it at 7 in the bottom of the ninth on a run-scoring grounder off Chacon, who has blown five of 15 save opportunities.
Aaron Miles was 4-for-5 with an RBI for the Rockies, who have lost six straight.
The Devil Rays loaded the bases with no outs in the eighth against Steve Reed. The right-hander, who earlier in the day appealed a three-game suspension for making contact with an umpire last Sunday, worked out of trouble by inducing three straight grounders.
Aubrey Huff gave Tampa Bay a 6-5 lead with an RBI grounder in the seventh.
The Rockies took a 2-0 lead in the third on a sacrifice fly by Royce Clayton and Helton’s RBI double.
Tampa Bay went ahead 3-2 in the bottom half on Fick’s solo homer and Cruz’s two-run shot.
Miles tied it at 3 with an RBI single in the fifth.
The Devil Rays gained the lead in the bottom of the inning on an RBI triple by Carl Crawford and Cruz’s run-scoring double.
Helton got the Rockies even at 5 with his two-run double in the seventh.
Piniella said Devil Rays managing general partner Vince Naimoli called Sanchez’s homer. “He said he has witnesses,” Piniella said. … Rockies 3B Vinny Castilla, loudly booed each time he batted, went 0-for-4. Considered a key acquisition by Tampa Bay in a Dec. 1999 trade with Colorado, Castilla hit just .219 with eight homers in 109 games during an injury-marred stint with theDevil Rays. Tampa Bay placed him on waivers in May 2001.