OAKLAND, Calif. — Many of the Rays were frustrated when they finally got to Oakland's stadium Friday afternoon because of bridge construction and traffic issues that resulted in a nearly two-hour ride and, for starter David Price, a $202 car fare.
But they were in an even worse mood when they left, a wasted opportunity, a questionable call and a bad break all leading to a 4-3 loss to the now-wild-card-leading A's.
"Just one of those moments,'' Rays manager Joe Maddon said.
The Rays fell to 75-58 with the loss, dropping 3½ games behind the American League East-leading Red Sox and a half-game behind the A's and into the second wild-card spot, four games ahead of the Orioles.
The Rays had just scored two runs to tie in the eighth, then gave the lead right back. Price, who gave up a three-run homer earlier to No. 9 hitter Kurt Suzuki, allowed a leadoff single to Coco Crisp on his 107th and final pitch. Joel Peralta got a ground ball to shortstop but with Crisp running on the 2-2 pitch the Rays got only an out at first, and then Jed Lowrie dropped a ball down the rightfield line for an RBI double.
"That wasn't the situation for him to be running and he did; it was a lucky move right there,'' Peralta said. "I got the ground ball right where I wanted it. Bad break right there.''
The game not only had wild-card implications but also featured a matchup of two of the league's hottest pitchers. Price and Oakland's Jarrod Parker were coming in a combined 15-1 in their previous 27 starts. Both pitched relatively well, though Price lost for the first time since July 12, having won his previous five decisions.
The Rays got to Parker first, with a second-inning RBI single by Yunel Escobar. Then the A's got to Price, taking advantage of a rare error at second base by Ben Zobrist (ending an 81-game streak) and taking a 3-1 lead on a three-run homer by Suzuki on a changeup.
"I wanted a double play, I didn't get it,'' Price said. "I didn't make a good enough pitch and it cost us.''
Zobrist said it was just as much his fault, as Price walked the next batter.
"I don't think he walks Chris Young unless that error's made,'' Zobrist said. "He was just cruising until that point. I just threw it a little bit too hard and too high. It just got away from me. It happens every once in a while. It's just kind of a bummer that it really cost us something today and it breaks the streak.''
The Rays rallied to tie it in the eighth. David DeJesus led off with a single and Zobrist walked to end Parker's night. Evan Longoria ended his 0-for-18 streak with a bloop single to right off Ryan Cook that loaded the bases. The Rays got one run on a sac fly by Matt Joyce, then the other when James Loney battled through 10 pitches to lace to ball to center that ticked off the glove of diving centerfielder Chris Young for a double, his first extra base hit of August. "Great at-bat,'' Maddon said.
But with runners on second and third with one out, the Rays got no more as Desmond Jennings went down swinging and Kelly Johnson looking, though with an argument for home plate umpire Brian Gorman.
"That was a big moment right there,'' Maddon said. "We get to that point, second and third one out, we just have to move the baseball right there. That's a pretty big at-bat.''
The lack of offense has been the cause of their latest slide, as they have scored just 15 runs in the six games and batted just ,218.
Maddon said Johnson may have had a point.
"From what I hear he did,'' Maddon said. "I heard it was relatively far outside. Plays, calls happen like that, It's much more difficult when it happens in such crucial moments. ... It is frustrating when that happens. I used the word frustrating (Thursday), It's the word of the last two days. But when it's that egregiously bad it's the one that really stands out.''
The Rays had a brief shot in the ninth against ex-teammate Grant Balfour when Escobar, who saw four pitches in his first three at-bats, drew a nine-pitch walk with one out, but that was it.
Price said it was a frustrating day overall, and he wasn't the only one.
Closer Fernando Rodney didn't even play, and he had problems, getting locked in the small dugout bathroom for about 15 minutes, with the door handle apparently having to be broken off to get him out.
"Kind of an interesting moment, kind of a fun moment,'' Maddon said. "That was when we rallied. We should have kept him in there.''
Rodney said it was quite the odd experience.
"The door locked, I don't know how,'' he said. "I'm yelling, "Hey unlock this, someone's in the bathroom." ... It was hot inside, I could only hear the crowd with the game, I can't see what's going on. ...
"It was weird.''
Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @TBTimes_Rays.