ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. The ball soared off B.J. Upton's bat in the bottom of the ninth inning late Thursday night, carrying with it a touch of the magic that has eluded the Tampa Bay Rays this season and keeping their long-shot playoff hopes alive just when the lights seemed to be flickering out.
All Upton needed was to loft the shot deep enough to score pinch-runner Elliot Johnson on a sacrifice fly for the winning run. But the ball just kept sailing well over the head of Boston Red Sox center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury, playing shallow in hopes of preventing a score.
And then it disappeared over the wall a walk-off, three-run blast as the few remaining fans in a small Tropicana Field crowd of 12,963 roared in a dramatic scene reminiscent of the Rays' surge to the postseason last September.
"We've been missing a little bit of the magic this year and it doesn't get much more magical than that moment right there," said manager Joe Maddon. "I've b...