ST. PETERSBURG — Alex Colome came on in the eighth inning Sunday to protect a one-run lead and face the heart of the Astros lineup. That was by design, and not a design made necessary by the injuries in the bullpen.
Colome was told in spring training that he would be called on for the occasional six-out save, even if Brad Boxberger and Shawn Tolleson were healthy at the start of the season to serve as setup men and even if the back end of the bullpen was still thick with a healthy and productive Xavier Cedeno and a healthy Tommy Hunter.
"I'm good with this," Colome said Sunday. "They tell me in spring training when they need me for two innings if I'm good. I said, 'Yes, really good to throw two innings when I can.' "
The first opportunity came Sunday, and Colome came close to earning his first six-out save since May 24 at Miami.
It didn't happen, though, because Yuliesky Gurriel, who reached on a leadoff single, completed his trip around the bases with the help of a groundout to first, a passed ball by catcher Jesus Sucre that allowed Gurriel to advance to third, and a sacrifice fly to rightfield that allowed the Astros first baseman to score the tying run.
"I (messed) it up on that pitch right there," Sucre said. "I should have caught that pitch, and it cost us the game."
The Astros, who trailed 4-0 after the first inning, won 6-4 in 10 innings.
"Frustrating loss," manager Kevin Cash said.
Frustrating for a number of reasons.
• The Rays offense disappeared after the first inning.
• The run of short outings by the starting pitching continued with only five from Matt Andriese.
• The fears concerning the defense popped up in the ninth.
Colome allowed the leadoff hitter to reach in both of his innings. In the eighth, he got the next batter to hit into a double play.
"He was throwing great," Sucre said. "He do everything he can trying to win the game."
In the ninth, he got another ground ball by the next batter, but this was to first base, and Rickie Weeks, a converted second baseman, couldn't make the throw to second to get the lead runner, settling for only the out at first. That put Gurriel, the tying run, in scoring position.
Next came the passed ball on a catcher not all that familiar with catching Colome.
"He threw a backdoor cutter," Sucre said. "If you call a cutter, you're waiting for a cutter. He threw me backdoor a little bit. That's no excuse. I (messed) it up."
Sucre expected the ball to run toward the plate. Instead, it ran away.
"Very difficult pitch to handle," Cash said.
"That happens in the game," Colome said. "We throw a couple of pitches, maybe go the other way, the wrong way. Maybe tomorrow happens again. Maybe the next day, but we do what we have to do, do the job, throw strikes."
The Rays (10-10) won four of six on the homestand. It should have been five of six with a little tighter defense in the ninth.
"We let one get away from us," Cash said.