ST. PETERSBURG — One of the reasons manager Joe Maddon organized extra pregame work this week was the hefty number of plays his usually defensively strong Rays hadn't been making. And one of the topics they covered in the 45-minute session Tuesday afternoon was making plays at the outfield walls.
So naturally, two of the key moments in Tuesday's momentum-stalling 7-5 loss to the Orioles were fly balls to the wall that didn't get caught. That, plus another ineffective start by Erik Bedard, helped drop the Rays to 28-44 before a Trop gathering of 10,803.
Rays leftfielder David DeJesus had a shot at the first until he crashed into the short wall that juts out in the corner, knocking himself down as Chris Davis' lofting ball hit off the pole for — once the umps went to the video — a grand slam, on an 0-and-2 pitch, that gave the Orioles a 5-0 lead.
"I thought I did up until the wall blocked my arm from grabbing it," DeJesus said. "It kept fading, fading, fading and at that point I couldn't really look up to see the wall because it was so close, so I just threw my glove out there — and ran straight into it."
Rays rightfielder Matt Joyce definitely should have had the other at the start of the seventh, after the Rays had closed to 5-4, but misread it badly and got himself so turned around that he, too, ended up on the ground. Caleb Joseph got a double on the play, but it mattered more an out later when Steve Pearce homered off Brad Boxberger to push the Orioles' lead to 7-4.
"There's really no excuse," Joyce said. "I think that's a play that has to be made. Especially in a situation like that."
Maddon said both balls probably were catchable, but absolved DeJesus, saying the combination of the arc of the ball and angle of the 5-foot-high wall created a high degree of difficulty.
"It's not an easy play for anybody," he said. "That was tough, where everything came together at once."
And DeJesus, admittedly lucky to not be hurt as hard as he hit the wall, said he wasn't sure what else he could have done.
"I was going to catch it right at the pole, so there was no way to do anything," he said. "I would do the same thing again. … I don't want to do the same thing again. Hopefully he doesn't hit it there anymore."
The Joyce play was obviously more bothersome, especially since the inning might unfold differently if Joseph is out. "That's what I was talking about," Maddon said. "That was a play we should make that we did not."
Overall, Maddon was pleased with their pregame work, their play and their offense, which included back-to-back homers by Sean Rodriguez and Desmond Jennings and a couple of clutch hits.
He laid the loss on Bedard, who lasted only one batter into the fifth, his major league-most fifth start of four or fewer innings and the seventh time in 12 starts he couldn't go more than five.
"It's very simple," Maddon said. "Our starting pitcher had a tough night. That's it."
Bedard didn't necessarily disagree: "I just wasn't that sharp. I tried to throw strikes and it didn't work."
Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @TBTimes_Rays.