ST. PETERSBURG -- Brandon Allen had gone 17 days without playing in a game when he drew a key bases-loaded walk Wednesday night. The Rays acquired him a week ago, and manager Joe Maddon said he didn't have any idea how he would use Allen.
Just stay ready, Maddon told him.
Allen did just that, and he followed up his big walk with an even bigger walk-off homer Thursday afternoon against Angels closer Jordan Walden, giving Tampa Bay a 4-3 win -- the club's fifth in a row -- before a jubilant crowd of 15,417 at Tropicana Field.
"Baseball is luck. It's a lot of luck. You just do what you can to prepare for it," Allen said. "I just got in there and stayed within myself."
He knew he would pinch-hit for Jose Molina in the bottom of the ninth, when B.J. Upton knocked a one-out single to right field, putting the tying run on first base against Walden. Up came Allen, with the idea of his first Major League walk-off hit on his mind.
Walden unleashed three fastballs, running up a 2-1 count. Allen was slightly ahead of the fourth pitch of the at-bat and hit it hard, but foul. He got all of the fifth fastball from Walden, sending his first hit of the season into the right-field stands as the Rays began their raucous celebration.
"I always said that guy could hit," Angels outfielder Torii Hunter said. "He came up with that big swing off a guy that throws 97 [mph] with two strikes. He just took a chance on a fastball and hit it."
"It was amazing," said Allen, whose two-run shot was the fourth pinch-hit walk-off homer in Rays history. "Everybody wants that moment, and I'm thankful I got it."
Maddon has praised Allen for his character and makeup -- an 80 on the traditional 20-80 scouting scale or, as the manager put it, "an A-plus-plus." When asked what he thought about Allen saving what would have been his second loss of the season, lefty Matt Moore's first words were, "Oh my gosh, I'm so happy for him."
In other words, Allen has made a positive impression on his coaches and teammates in a very short period of time. And, of course, he's made quite an impact on the field as well.
"To do this, to basically win two games for us two nights in a row, is pretty special," Maddon said.
Allen found himself in that situation thanks to Moore's best overall outing of the season and strong performances by Burke Badenhop, Joel Peralta and Brandon Gomes.
Moore cruised through the early going, allowing only one baserunner through four hitless innings, but ran into trouble in the form of Angels right fielder Mark Trumbo later on as the Rays fell into a 3-1 hole. Moore didn't think anything changed after the fourth inning, and he was encouraged by how he pitched during his no-hit bid.
Moore threw 5 2/3 innings and gave up three runs (two earned) on five hits and two walks while striking out six, as his ERA dropped to 4.68. Trumbo simply got the better of Moore, going 2-for-3 against him with a solo home run in the fifth inning, an RBI double in the sixth and a run scored on Vernon Wells' infield single.
"I just felt like the timing of all my stuff was better," Moore said. "I wasn't thinking about mechanics or mechanisms and all that stuff that sometimes you get to thinking about. I was just going down the hill and going right at them, and that made all my pitches sharper and the quality of them better."
After Moore exited, the Rays received stellar relief work from Badenhop (two innings, two hits, one strikeout), Peralta (one-third of an inning, one strikeout) and Gomes (one inning, two strikeouts). That gave Matt Joyce a chance to cut the lead to one with an RBI triple between Trumbo and speedy center fielder Peter Bourjos. Peralta may have had the most important moment of all, striking out Trumbo with two outs and a runner on third in the eighth inning.
"Peralta's out was a big out on Trumbo," Maddon said. "Trumbo was swinging the bat really well."
But Trumbo wasn't the story of Thursday's game, though it appeared he might be until the ninth inning.
In the end, that honor belonged to Allen, who could quickly establish himself as another one of the Rays' folk heroes if he keeps this up.
Think his story sounds familiar? Consider this: Allen and former Ray Dan Johnson, who hit some of the biggest home runs in franchise history, were both claimed from Oakland and added to the Rays' active roster on April 21 exactly four years apart, and both delivered a game-winning pinch-hit homer in the ninth inning in their first official at-bats with Tampa Bay.
"It's pretty easy to get along with everybody in here. It's just a good clubhouse to be in," Allen said. "I feel like I was in the mix already, but this is just exciting to finally get initiated. I got the membership card.
"It feels great," he added. "The guys are doing everything they can to prepare me for it, and I've just got to go in there and have a good at-bat. I had one."
Allen immediately corrected himself, smiling as he finished the thought.
"I had two."