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BOS@TB: Rays walk off on Figueroa's RBI double

ST. PETERSBURG -- What a couple of days for the Rays. What a couple of days for Cole Figueroa.

Figueroa hit a walk-off RBI double in the bottom of the ninth inning as Tampa Bay beat the Red Sox, 1-0, at Tropicana Field in Friday night's series opener. After not having any walk-off wins in their first 47 games, the Rays have two straight.

It was only Figueroa's second Major League hit -- the first came on Thursday night against the A's. This one came in a scoreless game, on a 1-2 count. As Figueroa's liner fell between the Boston outfielders, the young second baseman sprinted around first, touched second and danced his way into the outfield after his first career RBI.

"I'd seen it on TV lots of times, and I was like, 'That'd be pretty cool to do,' and when I got to second, I was like, 'Well, might as well make this last,'" Figueroa said of his celebration.

"And I got a head start -- and I didn't play -- so I was, like, pretty fresh. I was like, 'I'm going to get a head start, and they're not going to catch me, so this moment's going to last forever."

Tampa Bay improved to 21-28. Boston, meanwhile, is on an eight-game losing streak. The Red Sox dropped to 20-27 and are tied with the Rays for last in the American League East based on record, although the Rays are ahead on percentage points.

Figueroa made it two days, two walk-offs for Rays second basemen. On Thursday night, Sean Rodriguez blasted a three-run homer in the 11th inning to beat the A's.

Rodriguez would have had the chance to do it again Friday, but manager Joe Maddon pinch-hit Figueroa for him to get a righty-lefty matchup against Boston right-hander Burke Badenhop -- and Figueroa came through.

"Sean had his moment," joked Figueroa, who said he cannot remember having a walk-off hit at any level -- except maybe T-ball. "I mean, obviously, I think Sean would have done just as well."

When Boston started to warm up a right-hander, though, the coaches told Figueroa to be ready to pinch-hit. With Desmond Jennings on first and Badenhop, who is a ground-ball pitcher, on the mound, the Rays wanted someone who could put the ball in the air and avoid a double play.

Maddon said lefties like Figueroa have a better chance of doing that against Badenhop than righties like Rodriguez.

When Figueroa came up, Maddon said, the Rays planned to hit-and-run with him, which they had done on Thursday when Figueroa got his first hit. The Red Sox, though, threw a pitchout on the hit-and-run pitch, and Figueroa, who had no chance to reach it, took it for a ball. But Jennings beat the throw, which catcher A.J. Pierzynski sailed high.

"They foiled it by pitching out," Maddon said. "But I also felt that even if they did, Jennings could beat it on the steal."

Maddon also said he's glad Figueroa didn't swing at the pitch, just for the sake of following through on the sign.

"There's nothing he could have done about that," Maddon said. "And if you ask him, I really believe he's bright enough to tell you that the pitcher was slow enough to the plate that Jennings could have stolen it."

The stolen base put the winning run in scoring position, and two pitches later, Jennings crossed the plate. But before Figueroa's walk-off, it was a second straight pitchers' duel in St. Petersburg.

A day after Alex Cobb and Sonny Gray went pitch-for-pitch, Tampa Bay's Chris Archer and Boston's John Lackey traded zeros -- but it took Archer a lot more work, and Lackey outlasted him. Lackey threw seven-plus shutout innings, and Archer threw six without allowing a run.

Even Lackey's strong performance, though, wasn't enough to halt Boston's skid, since the Red Sox couldn't get to Archer or Tampa Bay's relievers.

"I thought we had a very good approach," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "We run up the pitch count on Archer, he gets a number of big strikeouts in the fifth after the leadoff double to [Brock] Holt. We put guys on base and not able to cash in once again."

Archer struck out 11 -- tying a career high -- in those six innings, and it took him 119 pitches -- setting a career high. After the 119th pitch, a 96-mph two-seam fastball that caught Grady Sizemore looking to end the sixth, Archer hopped off the mound with a hard nod of his head.

Lackey equaled Archer over those six frames, holding the Rays scoreless in that period on 90 pitches. He exited after seven-plus scoreless and 108 pitches -- one inning more and 11 pitches less than Archer.

Lackey shut down just about every Rays player not wearing No. 3 -- Evan Longoria broke out of a 4-for-34 stretch over his previous 10 games with three hits off the Boston right-hander. Lackey only gave up two hits to the rest of the lineup.

Both bullpens picked up where their starters left off -- until the bottom of the ninth, when Figueroa got to Boston for the game's only run.

"The way we're playing, the plays we were making, the timely hit that we got -- it all came together tonight," Archer said. Comments