ST. PETERSBURG -- When the ball took off from Matt Joyce's bat, Yoenis Cespedes didn't even bother trying to go catch it.
Joyce lifted a walk-off single to left field with the bases loaded and one out in the 10th inning Monday, as the Rays beat the Red Sox, 4-3, at Tropicana Field. The ball was probably catchable, but it would have gone for a sacrifice fly anyway.
"[I wanted to] hit the ball in the air to left field, preferably far enough to where Cespedes couldn't throw the guy out," Joyce said, laughing. "But he's got such a good arm -- you never know with that guy."
Ryan Hanigan led off the 10th inning against Boston reliever Burke Badenhop and smoked a ball into the left-field corner, diving into second just ahead of Cespedes' perfect strike. Red Sox manager John Farrell challenged the call, but following a review, the call on the field stood.
"I was already committed to going," Hanigan said of testing Cespedes' notorious arm. "But hey, we got a call, and it looked like I got [my hand] in there -- at least a tie -- so I think it was the right move, and it set us up to get a guy in scoring position for that W."
After an intentional walk to Kevin Kiermaier, Ben Zobrist bunted over the runners, leading to another intentional walk of Wil Myers. Then Joyce delivered the game-winner.
"That's a tough moment to be in, in a sense, because Badenhop throws so many ground balls," manager Joe Maddon said. "And I understand why they chose to walk Kiermaier. They had that all planned out -- we're going to bunt Ben, they're going to walk Wil, go for the double play. Totally got it, but I still liked that it got to the point of Matt Joyce."
It was the Rays' third walk-off win against the Red Sox this season -- they did it in back-to-back games on May 23-24. The May 24 contest was also the last time they walked off any game.
On Monday, the Rays' offense wasn't pretty -- again -- and the starting pitching was -- again -- but Tampa Bay managed to scrounge up just enough runs to salvage a split in its four-game series against the Red Sox.
The Rays had just finished a 13-16 August despite their pitching staff posting a 2.87 ERA -- an accurate, and not very flattering, reflection on the team's hitting. Playing its first game of September, in need of a magical run to even sniff the postseason, Tampa Bay got more of the same, and was fortunate enough to come away with a win.
The Rays also won despite squandering a 3-2 lead in the eighth inning when they went to a September callup over their closer to face the middle of the Sox's order.
Steve Geltz hadn't pitched in the big leagues since 2012 when he got the call Monday with the tying run on second, two outs and Cespedes at the plate.
Jake McGee was also ready to go, but Geltz got the call, and on a 3-2 pitch, Cespedes laced the game-tying single through the left side.
That left Drew Smyly with a no-decision, even though he continued his strong run to start his Rays career, limiting the Red Sox to two runs on three hits over 5 2/3 innings and striking out seven. The only damage against him came on Mookie Betts' two-out RBI double in the third and Mike Napoli's solo home run in the fourth.
Red Sox starter Rubby De La Rosa, on the other hand, didn't quite shine so brightly as he did the last time he faced the Rays in his season debut on May 31.
In that game -- which came during Tampa Bay's 1-14 stretch that buried the club at the bottom of the Major Leagues, a season-high 18 games under .500 -- De La Rosa baffled the Rays over seven scoreless innings, allowing just four hits and striking out eight.
This time, the Rays strung together a three-run third inning off De La Rosa. With one out and two runners aboard, Myers, who had been hitting .143 since returning from the disabled list but went 3-for-4 Monday, lofted an RBI double into the right-field corner. After Joyce struck out, Evan Longoria laced a line drive through the middle, plating two more.
But that was all the offense the Rays got until the 10th, when they finally broke through to avoid another low-scoring loss.
Like the Rays, the Red Sox had their closer waiting in the wings, as Koji Uehara would have pitched the next inning, manager John Farrell said. But, like Maddon, he elected to hold his man back, as Boston is out of playoff contention.
"Given where we are at this part of the season, I'm not going to bring him in in a tie game on the road," Farrell said. "We had handled Joyce well to that point, and really in the series against right-handers, and were looking for him to put the ball on the ground."
Joyce got it into the air, though, and reminded the Rays of what a walk-off celebration feels like.
"It's nice to know that we can do it again," Joyce said. "We remembered tonight."
David Adler is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.