A day after ace David Price was traded to the Tigers in a move many considered a surrender, the Rays took a 5-3 loss to the Angels that echoed with frustration at the end.
The Rays lost consecutive games for the first time since losing to the Royals on July 9, then losing to the Royals on July 11 after an off-day. Coupled with the win by the first-place Orioles, the Rays fell to 8 1/2 games back in the American League East.
The Rays are still 11-3 since July 12 and 29-14 since June 11 on the heels of a 1-14 stretch that dropped them to a season-high 18 games below .500. That did little to take the sting out of how things went in the ninth, when the prospect of winning had a pulse.
Huston Street entered the game in the ninth to try and protect a 5-3 lead. All the Angels closer had to do was retire the bottom of the Rays' order to get the job done. But Cole Figueroa's leadoff single told Street the Rays did not plan on going down gently.
Brandon Guyer followed with a nine-pitch walk after falling behind in the count, 0-2, and Kevin Kiermaier chipped in with an infield single to load the bases. Now the Rays were in business with the top of their order coming up, or so they thought. Only, Street had other ideas.
Desmond Jennings went down swinging, as did Ben Zobrist to bring Matt Joyce to the plate with two outs and the tying runs in scoring position. Street got ahead 0-2 then retired Joyce on a flyout to center to end the game.
"We came out and played well, despite all the hubbub and turmoil [from the Price trade]," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "We came out, we were good, and we had every chance to win that game late. Seven, eight, nine get on base to load the bases and here comes one, two, three, can't get anything done. That's disappointing."
Street is now 5-for-5 in save opportunities since joining the Angels on July 19 after a trade with the Padres.
"The moment itself is just one pitch at a time," Street said. "If you choose to focus on bases loaded, nobody out, the odds say you're gonna get beat. If you choose to focus on, 'Make my pitch, down and away,' well, the odds on that one pitch -- one pitch at a time -- the odds are always in your favor as a pitcher.
"And sometimes you get lucky too. They hit a couple balls that were close, on the lines. See, you know, after one like that, you try not to analyze it too much, you just kinda say, 'Well, I'm glad that one's over, and I'm glad we won.' Any time you're bases loaded, nobody out, and you end up with a win -- I'll take that outing all day long. I mean, you don't want to do it every time, but we win, we win. I go home happy."
Maddon noted that the mood in the clubhouse, along with his team's energy, were good Friday night, with no evidence of a hangover from Price's departure. But a glaring weakness in the rotation left behind was personified by Rays starter Jeremy Hellickson's performance.
Not only did Price have electric stuff, but he always seemed to go deep into the game. That meant that the bullpen would usually get some rest on the night's when he pitched. Thus, after Price's departure, the Rays' starters know they will have to pitch deeper into the games to collectively help the bullpen. Hellickson could not get that done.
He walked the leadoff batter, Kole Calhoun, to start the game. Mike Trout then re-routed a 1-1 fastball into the left-field stands for his 25th home run of the season. Erick Aybar added an RBI double to put the Angels up, 3-0.
"First of all, you want to get strike one there and then not walk the guy," Hellickson said. "Especially with the guys they've got coming up after him. I thought I settled down a lot after that. But giving up three in the first, especially the way I did it -- walk, homer, double, single two batters later. I just have to be better."
Hellickson allowed four runs on six hits in 4 2/3 innings to take his first loss of the season. He has not finished five innings in any of his three starts this season since re-joining the team after elbow surgery.
"That's not going to work," Maddon said. "He has to go deeper into the games."
Figueroa's sacrifice fly in the bottom of the second got the Rays on the scoreboard, but Josh Hamilton answered for the Angels in the top of the third with his seventh homer of the season to push the lead to 4-1.
In the fifth, Evan Longoria's infield single scored two -- one on the hit and another on Angels third baseman David Freese's wild throw to first. The play ended with a bizarre twist when Longoria ran into first-base umpire Larry Vanover while rounding the base. He fell, then tried to make second but was thrown out by the Angels' right fielder, Calhoun.
Chris Iannetta's RBI double off Kirby Yates in the sixth gave the Angels a two-run cushion.
While Maddon remains his easy-going -- and optimistic -- self, he did stress the obvious.
"There are no moral victories," Maddon said. "We have to start winning games and that's a game that we should not have permitted to get away."