Tampa Bay lost the series to Baltimore while moving to 5-10 on the season and 2-7 on their three-stop journey. On Friday night at Tropicana Field, the Rays will begin a six-game homestand against the Athletics and Yankees.
Nick Markakis started the winning rally Thursday with a single off Jamey Wright. Brandon Gomes took over to face Manny Machado, who pushed a bunt down the first-base line and beat it out for a single. Confusion then entered the picture.
Adam Jones slammed a drive to deep right field. With no outs, the runners had to hold to see if Ben Zobrist caught the ball at the wall. He did not, but that pause prevented Markakis from scoring on the play. The Rays contended that Jones did not re-touch second base on his return to first, so they appealed. While replays appeared to validate the Rays' contention, the appeal was not upheld.
"It's a very confusing moment, not your typical baseball moment," manager Joe Maddon said.
With the bases loaded and no outs, Maddon elected to bring Zobrist in from the outfield to give the Rays five infielders. Wieters then made the move irrelevant when he connected for his third home run of the season, all of which have come against the Rays.
"I felt like it was going to go, and I knew it was going to get a run in, whether it went out or not; I knew the game was going to be over," Wieters said.
A dejected Gomes said he just needed to do his job in that situation.
"I haven't seen the pitch to Jones, but I'm assuming that slider was left up," Gomes said. "Then I tried to go back-door slider to Wieters, and it caught way too much of the plate."
Had Jones been ruled out, Gomes would have been pitching with an empty base and runners at second and third.
"The whole world changes at that point, too," Maddon said. "When you have a base open like that, the pitcher can pitch in a different manner as opposed to when you do not. Who knows what would have happened at that point. Second and third with one out, it would have been a different mind-set for Gomes. ... He could have done different things."
Gomes allowed that if first base were open, "it could have" made a difference, but he added: "I'm not going to play that game. I just didn't execute the pitches I needed to. That's really all it is."
For most of the time on the road, Tampa Bay has struggled on offense, which added a strange tint to Thursday night's game as the offense performed well, but the pitching did not come through.
The Rays took the lead three different times for David Price, who was making his fourth start of the season. All told, Tampa Bay hit four home runs on the evening. Desmond Jennings, Evan Longoria, Jose Molina and James Loney went deep. But the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner came up empty, despite a good start that saw him strike out the side in the first on 12 pitches.
"It was kind of a tough night for [Price]," Maddon said. "He didn't have his best stuff, and they kept coming back. The way he started out the game, I felt pretty good. That first inning he was very sharp. But they kept nipping away."
Price is now winless in four starts after allowing five runs on eight hits while striking out six en route to a no-decision.
"The offense did a great job, got me two runs in the first inning, and I gave them back -- all three of them back -- in the second after I had a very good first inning," Price said. "It is frustrating. ... It's a frustrating time for myself and this team.
"I want to win. I do. That's why I play this game is to win. And most importantly I want this team to win every fifth day when it's my time to pitch. And that's not happening right now. So I have to make some adjustments and continue to work."
Sooner or later the Rays would like the biscuits to come out even with the gravy.
"Hopefully we can start pitching and hitting on the same night," Sean Rodriguez said. "Maybe we all need to go out to eat together."