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 been saying, man, if you believe you...