ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP)—Jonny Gomes lingered near home plate to admire the dramatic home run he hit to stop Tampa Bay’s 10-game losing streak, then circled the bases oblivious to the anger of Detroit’s Ivan Rodriguez.
“What happened afterwards? Well, it went over the fence and the game was over,” Gomes said Saturday after his two-run, ninth-inning shot off Troy Percival gave the Devil Rays their first win since June 27, 5-4 over the Tigers.
What Gomes missed was Rodriguez, Detroit’s All-Star catcher, exchanging words with Tampa Bay’s Julio Lugo, who defended Gomes’ reaction.
“It’s something natural. A 10-game losing streak, you go crazy when something like that happens and win a game in this fashion,” Lugo said. “Everybody should watch it, especially to win the game. … He knew it was gone. Everybody knew it was gone. What’s the big deal about it?”
Rodriguez didn’t speak with reporters before leaving the clubhouse.
Tigers manager Alan Trammell said he did not see the exchange with Lugo, and didn’t make an issue of Gomes standing and watching the estimated 474-foot blast to straightaway center—the second-longest homer in Tropicana Field history.
“I think he knew it was gone,” Trammell said. “When somebody does that, a lot of times in the heat of the battle you’re going to say something. But the game’s over. We all know it.”
The Devil Rays were two outs away from owning the longest skid in the majors this season when Travis Lee singled. Gomes hit the next pitch for Tampa Bay’s third walkoff homer of the year.
“Something big had to happen,” Gomes said. “Hopefully something big and dramatic like that can turn this club around.”
Rodriguez, Dmitri Young and Chris Shelton hit solo homers off Hideo Nomo for the Tigers before Tampa Bay began its comeback with Jorge Cantu’s RBI grounder in the fourth and Carl Crawford’s two-run double off Jason Johnson in the fifth.
Returning to the Tigers lineup after missing two games with a jammed left pinkie finger, Rodriguez also had a fifth-inning sacrifice fly to give Johnson a 4-1 lead. It was 4-3 when the Detroit starter left after allowing eight hits in seven innings.
Kyle Farnsworth pitched a perfect eighth for Detroit, and Percival (1-3) retired the first batter in the ninth before running into trouble.
The Tigers closer said he let his teammates down.
“I lost it. That’s all there was to it,” Percival said. “My team won the game and I went out and lost it.”
Danys Baez (5-2) pitched one scoreless inning for the win.
The game drew an announced crowd of 9,320 in nasty weather spawned by Hurricane Dennis.
Several tornadoes in the Tampa Bay caused minor damage, and the Devil Rays said fans holding tickets Saturday night may exchange them for one of 12 future dates, whether they were in attendance or not.
Rodriguez’s homer, which struck one of the catwalks that support the roof at Tropicana Field, was his sixth of the season and first since June 7. Young, who began the night batting .185 since May 31, followed with his 14th of the season for a 3-0 lead.
Tampa Bay won for just the second time in 15 games. They were outscored 65-32 and pitched to a 6.38 ERA during the 10-game skid that matched Colorado (April 24-May 7) for the longest this season.
Lou Piniella earned career victory No. 1,480, finally moving him into a tie with Earl Weaver for 19th on the all-time list for managerial wins.
“I was hoping to do it before Labor Day,” Piniella joked. “What a way to end the ballgame and end the losing streak.”
Detroit RF Magglio Ordonez and 2B Placido Polanco had the night off. … When Crawford, the two-time defending AL stolen base champion, swiped his 27th of the season on Friday night, he became the fifth player in major league history to accumulate 150 steals and 500 hits before their 24th birthday. Ty Cobb, Cesar Cedeno, Sherry Magee and Rickey Henderson are the others. … Nomo allowed four runs and 11 hits in 5 1-3 innings. He’s given up three homers in a game twice and has yielded a team-high 15 in 98 innings.