Despite striking out a club-record 21 batters and stranding 16 A's baserunners, the Rays were denied their third consecutive W in a 4-3 loss in 15 innings Monday night at the Oakland Coliseum with 12,564 watching.
"I can't say it was a really exciting baseball game. It was well pitched by both sides," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "Their pitching's good and so is ours. That's probably what happened tonight."
In defeat, the Rays moved to 53-50 on the season while remaining 7 1/2 games behind the American League-leading Yankees, but dropped to 3 1/2 games behind the Wild Card-leading Athletics and three behind the Angels, who are the leaders for the second Wild Card spot.
Brandon Inge singled off Kyle Farnsworth to start the Athletics' 15th. Kurt Suzuki sacrificed Inge to second. Seth Smith was intentionally walked and Eric Sogard walked to load the bases for Jemile Weeks.
That prompted Rays manager Joe Maddon to bring in Ben Zobrist from right field to become the Rays' fifth infielder. Weeks then hit a sacrifice fly to right-center that scored Inge to give the Athletics their 12th walk-off win of the season in a game that actually ended early Tuesday morning.
"I was confident," Weeks said. "You've got to be confident. I went up there looking for a pitch up, and I said if I got it, I was going to put it in the air. Thankfully he gave me that pitch and I did that."
Maddon said he had not planned on using Farnsworth at all, but had to given the circumstances of the game. If the game had moved into the 16th inning, he said he planned on using Jeff Keppinger, the Rays' designated hitter, for two innings and after that he would have had Keppinger flip-flop with third baseman Ryan Roberts.
"We were prepared for 20 innings," said Maddon, still managing a smile after the tough loss.
If ever a win seemed like a highly probable outcome, Monday night's game did. David Price looked overpowering while hunting his 15th win of the season.
Price surrendered two runs in the second, which snapped the Rays' 24-inning scoreless streak. The Rays had tied a club record after Price held the Athletics scoreless in the first. The Rays answered in the fourth when Carlos Pena doubled home two to tie the score.
Matt Joyce gave the Rays the lead with a solo home run in the sixth.
Protecting the one-run lead in the seventh, Price struck out the first two hitters he faced before Brandon Hicks stepped into the batter's box. Given the way Price was pitching, coupled with the fact that the Athletics' No. 9 hitter is not having the grandest offensive season, few in the ballpark would have bet against Price chalking up his 12th strikeout of the game.
Instead, Hicks hit a 1-1 pitch the opposite way. When the ball cleared the wall in right, Hicks had his third home run of the season and the game was tied at 3.
"[I] felt like I made an all-right pitch and he put a good swing on it," Price said. "That's part of it. I wish I could have that pitch back and throw something different.
"I felt good tonight. I gave up two runs early and we bounced back with two of our own. ... They got me the lead like they have all year and I wasn't able to hang onto it for us."
Joel Peralta took over for Price and pitched a scoreless eighth. Wade Davis and Jake McGee each managed to come away unscathed in the ninth and 10th innings despite having the Athletics load the bases in both innings.
J.P. Howell pitched a scoreless 11th when he struck out Josh Reddick with runners at first and second for the third out. Burke Badenhop then pitched two scoreless innings before Fernando Rodney pitched a scoreless 14th. The run that Farnsworth gave up in the 15th was only the second run the Rays' bullpen had allowed in 37 1/3 innings.
"We pitched great, pitched well," Maddon said. "A lot of our guys pitched well under duress. A lot of baserunners and they came through with big strikeouts. Our pitching staff has been doing that all year. But our bullpen has been outstanding and they were once again tonight."