KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Asked to sum up the Rays' play through an inconsistent April in which they went 12-14, manager Joe Maddon settled on "mediocre."
Well, the word for the first day of May was miserable.
The Rays let another game get away, and this one was particularly ugly, losing 9-8 to the Royals after leading 5-0 in the third inning and 6-1 in the fourth.
"We just can't keep doing this," Maddon said. "We've given up way too many leads this year. We've actually done a lot of things well, we had another good offensive night, and to have the pitching come apart is really unusual for us."
Indeed, in 10 of their 15 losses they have had a lead. It was the first time they lost after being ahead by five or more in exactly two years, since May 1, 2011.
The game was played in deteriorating conditions, which seem likely to lead to the postponement of today's matinee: Temperatures dropping from 66 at first pitch into the 40s, winds gusting at more than 30 mph, and rain.
The Rays powered their way to the early lead, including their first back-to-back homers of the season, by Matt Joyce and Ben Zobrist in the first, and one by Luke Scott, who looked much better in his second game off the DL. Also, Desmond Jennings made a spectacular running catch in the first.
But Jeremy Hellickson, the Iowa native making his first start in Kansas City with more than 70 friends and relatives on hand, let the Royals back in. He allowed four runs, including a homer to ex-Ray Elliot Johnson, who took something of a celebratory trot around the bases, and was pulled after five innings (and 91 pitches).
"It's very frustrating," Hellickson said. "We score eight runs, we should win the ballgame. I blew two five-run leads there. That's just unacceptable."
Maddon turned to Jake McGee and, as several other times this season evidenced by McGee's 11.00 ERA, it didn't turn out well, as by the end of the 10-batter inning the Royals led 9-6.
McGee loaded the bases by allowing singles to three of the first four batters and gave up the first run when Billy Butler's liner hit off his glove, and he rushed and threw to first when he seemed to have a play at home.
"There was," Maddon said. "He just didn't process it at that particular moment."
McGee said it all happened too fast. "It was like natural reaction after the ball came back so quick," he said. "It was like, grab the ball and make sure I got an out no matter what."
Next Eric Hosmer bounced a ball between second and third that shortstop Yunel Escobar couldn't make a play on, called an error then changed to a hit, but either way not only allowing the tying run but extending the inning.
"Just tried to get the ball, make sure it didn't get through the hole," Escobar said, with Sean Rodriguez translating.
Next McGee gave up a shallow fly that dropped in front of leftfielder Kelly Johnson that made it 7-6 Royals — "That's the part that's frustrating, that particular hit was pretty severe," Maddon said. After McGee re-loaded the bases with a walk, Kyle Farnsworth gave up a grounder through the middle to Jeff Francoeur that scored two more.
"Just some bad baseball luck," Maddon said. "Definitely scored enough runs to win a game."