The Indians rookie, who entered the game with just two Major League at-bats, hit a walk-off home run against Shawn Camp in the bottom of the ninth to give the Indians a 2-1 win in front of a crowd of 34,557 on Friday night at Jacobs Field.
Camp, who had a seven-strikeout appearance against the White Sox earlier in the week, started the ninth for the Rays and Francisco was the first batter he faced. The count moved to 2-2 when Francisco connected for his first Major League home run, which he hit into the left-field stands to break the tie and give the Indians the their second walk-off win in their last four games.
A despondent Camp sat at his locker afterwards and chose not to talk to reporters.
Rays manager Joe Maddon said Camp "hung it."
"He had really good stuff again," Maddon said. "You saw the one breaking ball that froze [Francisco]. He put that one in a bad spot and he just ran the big part of the bat into the ball."
The Rays have now lost five in a row.
Jackson made his 15th start of the season for the Rays and had by far his best outing of the year, holding the Indians to one run on six hits and two walks while striking out six in six innings worked. In recent weeks, Jackson fueled speculation he would lose his spot in the rotation due to his poor performance. Friday night, he resembled anything but a struggling pitcher.
Jackson's "composure and mound demeanor were really under control and that was good," Maddon said. "That was really good to see that. That's big."
Jackson struck out the side in the sixth, his final inning of work, with several of his fastballs clocking in the upper 90-mph range. Jackson's pitch count also reached 100 pitches at the end of six innings, prompting Maddon to end his outing.
"To push him any deeper than that -- and when you're developing a young player -- a part of it is success," Maddon said. "He'd already done his job."
Maddon emphasized he wanted Jackson to come away feeling positive about his outing and did not want to jeopardize the positives he accomplished by allowing him to pitch another inning.
"I felt pretty good," Jackson said. "Threw strikes for the most part and just challenged the hitters. ... My confidence hasn't changed. Just the roll of the ball has."
Jackson has now allowed two runs or fewer in each of his last three starts, which is no coincidence given the way his changeup has come on recently.
"In the past three or four weeks, I've been throwing [the changeup] in the bullpen and games and it's coming around real well," Jackson said. "And it's helping a lot. I have another pitch to throw that I can throw whenever, no matter what the count."
Jackson didn't take the bait when asked if he wanted to remain in the game.
"The only note I wanted to end it on was a win," Jackson said. "All I did was go out there and give the team a chance to win."
Jackson received a no-decision as Indians starter Jake Westbrook proved to be equally effective against Rays hitters.
Westbrook allowed just one run on five hits and two walks in seven innings; at one point, he retired 12 Rays in a row. Most critical to Westbrook's performance, and the win, was his escaping the first inning. The Rays loaded the bases with one out before Westbrook struck out Carlo Pena and Ty Wigginton to end the threat.
"That game was pretty much lost in the first inning," Maddon said. "We had that opportunity to score some runs and really change the tone. But we didn't."
Maddon didn't seem concerned that the five consecutive losses would turn into a runaway train of defeats.
"We got really good pitching today," Maddon said. "We're playing better defense overall. We're just not hitting right now, which is one of our strong points. We'll get that back."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.