Jason Bartlett's RBI double in the top of the 12th scored Ben Zobrist to put Tampa Bay up, 10-9, and complete the miraculous come-from-behind win. Prior to Saturday, the Rays had never come back from an eight-run deficit in team history.
Tampa Bay moved to 6-3 on the current road trip and gained a game on division-leading New York, moving within 5 1/2 games of the lead in the American League East. The Yankees lost, 6-4, to the A's earlier in the afternoon.
"It's one of those things, you have to have that belief system among your group that you can come back," Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said. "If you stay in the game somehow, you can win it late. You have to believe that somehow."
On May 25, the Rays led the Indians by the score of 10-0 and lost, 11-10, so Saturday's win seemed to even their slate with the baseball gods.
"We've seen that in reverse this year, so it's nice to be on the other side of that," Maddon said. "I'm really proud of our guys."
Zobrist ignited the winning rally when he singled off Shawn Camp to lead off the 12th frame. Two outs later, Gabe Gross drew a walk to bring up Bartlett, who slammed a line drive down the left-field line to plate Zobrist for the winning run.
"I wanted to get it done," said Bartlett, who didn't start the game and confessed that he didn't believe he would get into the game when the Rays trailed 9-1 after six innings. "I knew the guys had been battling the whole game. It's a long game for them, and I knew, one way or another, I was going to get one of those sliders.
"[Camp] likes to throw the slider. I was going to try and sit on it. I didn't know exactly when I was going to get it, but he threw it on the first pitch and I got it."
Bartlett's base knock put Tampa Bay ahead by one run, but that cushion hardly felt comfortable in the bottom of the 12th.
Alex Rios drew a leadoff walk against Joe Nelson. Jose Bautista's sacrifice bunt moved Rios to second before pinch-hitter Rod Barajas drew a walk, as did the next hitter, Marco Scutaro. Nelson struck out Aaron Hill -- who had already homered twice in the game -- to bring Adam Lind to the plate with two outs, but he grounded out to Zobrist at second to end the game.
"Never a doubt," Nelson joked afterward. "Walking a leadoff guy who can run was a mistake. For us to come from behind in a game like that, down 8-0, the hitters did a great job.
"Everyone threw. That's the other thing, we didn't have any biscuits left."
Nelson was the last in a progression of relievers that included Lance Cormier, Dale Thayer, Grant Balfour, Randy Choate, Dan Wheeler and J.P. Howell, who followed starter David Price and allowed just two runs in the final nine innings. Had the game progressed much farther, James Shields was prepared to take over and had already gone down to the bullpen to prepare for such a possibility.
Price started and struggled out of the gate, allowing two runs in each of the first three innings -- a line that included three home runs -- before Cormier took over to start the fourth. But the Blue Jays continued to hit, as Hill connected for his second homer of the game, a two-run shot, to put Toronto up, 8-0.
Brian Tallet held the Rays scoreless through the first five innings before B.J. Upton broke the spell with an RBI single in the sixth. An inning later, Carlos Pena roped a bases-loaded triple off the right-field wall to chase Tallet. Willy Aybar then hit into a fielder's choice against Brandon League to score Pena and cut Toronto's lead to 9-5.
In the eighth, Pat Burrell's two-run single cut the lead to 9-7. Still clinging to the possibility they might come back, Choate and Wheeler retired Lind and Scott Rolen to end the eighth, stranding the potential 10th run at third base.
Pena and Aybar had solo home runs in the top of the ninth off Scott Downs to tie the score at 9.
"I don't know if there's any words for that," Downs said. "For me, it's embarrassing. Bottom line, it's not executing. We had a lead coming in, and you have a chance to close out a ballgame and you don't do it.
"It happens. When things are going bad, things are going bad. It's unacceptable. It's embarrassing. That's really the only thing I can say."
Pena had been mired in a slump that prompted Maddon to move his usual cleanup hitter to the sixth spot in the order, and the move paid dividends as Pena went 2-for-6 with his AL-best 25th home run, a triple and four RBIs.
"That's a great example of not quitting," Pena said. "Just keep on coming. And we talked about it on the bench, 'Just put together some good at-bats, just put together some good at-bats.' And you basically hope that you can put together a good rally and it did happen.
"That was awesome."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.