BALTIMORE — There was a lot that went into the Rays' latest crushing blow, including another apparently bad call by the umpires on a controversial play and an unquestionably bad pitch by Brandon Gomes to Matt Wieters that proved there was yet another way they could lose, this time 10-6 to the Orioles on a walkoff grand slam in the 10th inning Thursday night.
But it was manager Joe Maddon's decision to take Cy Young Award-winning ace David Price out of the game at a crucial juncture that might have been the most telling moment.
Maddon's faith and confidence in Price is usually extreme. But Price had already given away the lead twice and when, with the Rays back up 5-4, he allowed a leadoff double to J.J. Hardy, Maddon obviously did not have enough of either that Price, who had thrown only 86 pitches, could hold the lead. That he summoned Jake McGee, and he allowed a two-run homer to Lakeland's Steve Pearce, who hadn't had a hit all season, only made it look worse.
"He just didn't have his normal game going on," Maddon said of Price. "He's got his normal game on, then of course I leave him out there.
"It's just a night where his velocity, just everything did not seem to be right. So that's the call you have to make. Sometimes you leave the guy out there when you know his stuff is good, and other nights, like tonight, when you know he's struggling a bit. So that's all that was, just one particular night. I have all the confidence in the world in him. Tonight was not that night to just leave him out there, I didn't think."
Price walked off the mound with his head down and allowed afterward that he was "surprised" at the decision, but nothing worse.
"Joe, he's been the manager of the year however many times the past couple years because he makes decisions like that," Price said. "It just didn't work for us today."
It was the first time in Price's career he let three leads get away, but his bigger concern is a lack of consistency, much less a victory (or even a team win in his starts), after four outings.
"It is frustrating," he said. "It's very frustrating. It's a frustrating time for myself right now and for this team."
That was obvious in the solemn clubhouse after the third walkoff loss on what was a 2-7 road trip to Texas, Boston and Baltimore that started with the team bus getting in a minor accident leaving a Fort Worth hotel and got worse. And after this morning's 3-4 a.m. arrival home, the 5-10 Rays must turn around and play a rested Oakland team that has the American League's best record (12-4).
After considerable back-and-forth, as the Rays hit four solo homers, the score was tied at 6 after eighth innings. It stayed that way — the Rays failing to score when Desmond Jennings led off the ninth inning with a single — until the 10th.
Nick Markakis singled off Jamey Wright, and Manny Machado dropped a line-hugging bunt against Gomes. Adam Jones hit a ball off the rightfield wall that looked to end the game, but when Markakis was held at third, controversy ensued. Jones had already rounded second, and the Rays were sure he didn't retouch the bag on his way back to first (and replays showed it), but the umpires disagreed and disallowed their appeal.
Maddon arranged another five-man infield, but it didn't matter as Wieters crushed Gomes' slider that didn't slide.
"I didn't do my job there," Gomes said.
He wasn't the only one.
Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected].com.