After losing the opener and falling a half-game back of the New York Yankees in the American League East on Friday, Tampa rallied for an extra winning win on Saturday when Brandon Wood's throwing error in the 10th inning allowed Jason Bartlett to cross the plate and propel the Rays to a 4-3 win.
Tampa Bay trailed 3-2 in the ninth and was down to its final out before recording three consecutive singles off Fernando Rodney, the last a base hit by Carlos Pena to score pinch-runner Desmond Jennings.
Rafael Soriano (3-2) hurled a 1-2-3 top of the 10th, and Reid Brignac doubled to open the bottom half off Bobby Cassevah (0-2). After a pair of outs and two walks, Willy Aybar worked a full count as a pinch-hitter and hit a ball that Wood fielded at short and threw away.
"I'm not sure I could have set my feet, but I could have turned my body and turned my front shoulder to give myself a chance to get a better throw," Wood said.
Bartlett, serving as a pinch-runner for Brignac, scored the game-winner and kept the AL wild card-leading Rays, who have alternated wins and losses for the past week, a half-game behind the Yankees.
Tampa starts a four-game series in New York on Monday.
The comeback took David Price off the hook after the Cy Young candidate gave up three runs on four hits and two walks in seven innings.
Today the Rays turn to right-hander Jeff Niemann, who is 10-6 with a 4.32 ERA. Niemann did not get a decision last Sunday in Toronto, as he allowed three runs and two hits in five innings. He also walked four batters in the 5-4 loss.
Niemann was hit hard by the Angels the last time he faced them and is 1-1 in four starts against them with a 9.15 ERA. In his return from the disabled list on August 25 in Anaheim, Niemann surrendered 10 runs in just 3 1/3 frames.
The Angels, meanwhile, will counter with former Rays lefty Scott Kazmir, who has struggled this season, posting an 8-14 mark to go along with a 5.99 ERA. Kazmir lost his fifth straight decision on Tuesday in Cleveland, as the Tribe hit him for four runs and seven hits in 5 2/3 innings.
Kazmir pitched the first five-plus years of his big league career for Tampa, but is 0-2 against them since being dealt last summer and has pitched to a 5.23 ERA in the losses.
"I would love to face these guys and get a little redemption, but it wouldn't have been too bad to miss these guys, either, and just be able to sit back and enjoy this time back," Kazmir said. "It is what it is, and I'm going to get ready for Sunday."
At the time of the trade last August Kazmir had been the Rays' franchise leader in wins, innings pitched, strikeouts, starts and quality starts. Today's start, though, will be his first at the Trop since the deal.
"I've seen quite a few guys that have been through the organization then come back here and didn't really get that much of an ovation, said Kazmir. "Like I said, you can only expect the worst."
Tampa has won five of its eight meetings with the Angels this season.