ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Matt Joyce hit a walk-off home run to lead off the ninth inning to give the Tampa Bay Rays an 8-7 win over the Baltimore Orioles on Wednesday night at Tropicana Field.
Joyce came on as a pinch hitter and collected two hits in two at-bats in the win, beating an exaggerated defensive shift first by bunting past it, then by hitting over it.
It was hard to tell which was more crucial in the win overwin, but Joyce had a preference.
"I'll take (the homer) any day ,for sure," he said of his first career game-ending hit.
Joyce's first homer of the season, off Tommy Hunter (0-1), brought a resounding end to a slugfest of a final five innings, where the Orioles blew a four-run lead and tied it in the ninth off closer Fernando Rodney.
The season-opening series, currently split, concludes Thursday.
"I left the pitch in the middle," Hunter said. "He put a good swing on it. It was just a non-executed pitch."
Brian Roberts' double into the left-field corner scored Nolan Reimold from first to send the game to the bottom of the ninth. Reimold led off with a walk against Rodney, who was 48-for-50 in save opportunities last season, but squandered his first chance of 2013. He earned the win and manager Joe Maddon's appreciation.
"A lot of guys, that stuff happens and it's two or three runs," Maddon said of Rodney battling out of the ninth. "You can't overlook that. That's what I was thinking right there. Keep it there. Keep it tied, give (us) a chance to score one in the ninth and win it and he did."
The Rays survived another torrid night from Baltimore first baseman Chris Davis, who tied a career-high with four hits, including his second home run of the season and two doubles.
"I thought we battled tonight, but so did they," Davis said. "We didn't hand anything to them. They went out there and took it."
Desmond Jennings, Ben Zobrist and Evan Longoria went 2-for-4 for the Rays and Shelly Duncan had three RBIs with a homer.
Tampa Bay used three pinch-hitters to take a 7-5 lead in the seventh, with Joyce sparking the rally with a bunt single. A two-out James Loney RBI double into the left-field corner gave the Rays a 6-5 lead. Zobrist's RBI single upped the margin to 7-5. The Rays had tied the game earlier in the inning on a wild pitch from reliever Pedro Strop, who allowed three runs on four hits.
Joyce has long resisted advice to bunt against the shift, but made the decision to bunt on his own after being urged again Tuesday after watching video.
"Joe always talks about playing the game and taking what they give you, and in that situation all I tried to do is get on base," he said.
Maddon said a positive mental approach after successfully executing the bunt might have helped Joyce in his final at-bat.
"Maybe had he not gotten that bunt down it could have been a different vibe for him entirely," he said. "All those things add up. It's hard to absolutely quantify what that means, but it's in there, it's in there and it matters."
The Orioles cut the margin to 7-6 in the eighth when Matt Wieters singled home Davis, who had doubled.
Baltimore took a 5-4 lead in the seventh after surrendering a three-run edge. Reimold began the trouble for Rays starter Jeremy Hellickson with a walk and took second on a Roberts single. He scored on a Nate McLouth single. Reliever Kyle Farnsworth entered to coerce an inning-ending double play.
Hellickson was charged with five earned runs on eight hits in 6.1 innings. He struck out two and walked one.
Tampa Bay tied the game 4-4 with four two-out runs in the bottom of the sixth. Orioles starter Wei-Yin Chen left with a 4-1 lead, two out and Jennings on via a double before Luis Ayala surrendered three hits, including an RBI single by Zobrist and a three-run homer to Duncan to ruin his decision.
Chen allowed two earned runs on seven hits and four strikeouts.
Baltimore led 4-0 in the sixth after Davis singled in his fourth RBI, scoring Machado, who had led off with a double and taken third on a flyout.
After scoring seven two-out runs in a 7-4 Opening Day victory, the Orioles struck for three more in the first inning Wednesday against Hellickson. Davis delivered his second three-run homer of the season, this time to left, to score Nick Markakis and Adam Jones, who reached on two-out singles.
The Rays touched Chen for lead-off singles in the first three innings, but subsequently hit into three double plays.
NOTES: The Rays were 2-19 last season when allowing seven runs or more. ... The Orioles have scored 13 of their 14 runs in 2013 with two outs. ... Baltimore was an MLB-best 29-9 in one-run games last season. ... The Rays were 21-17 in one-run games last season, third worst in the AL. ... David Price's 13-pitch walk to Matt Wieters in the third inning Tuesday was the most pitches thrown in a walk by a Rays pitcher. ... Rodney entered the game with an active scoreless streak of 19 innings over 19 appearances.