ST. PETERSBURG — To be clear, and accurate, it was what Baltimore's Chris Davis did at the plate that was the primary reason the Rays lost to the Orioles 6-3 Thursday and dropped two of three in the season-opening series.
But it was what Evan Longoria did — or didn't do — on the basepaths that was the prime topic of conversation and controversy and left the Rays feeling they were done in by the umpires as well.
Longoria's alleged baserunning mistake — passing teammate Ben Zobrist by what apparently was a slim margin as both headed to second — thwarted the Rays' bid for a potential ninth-inning comeback.
"Bottom line, I didn't think it was the right call," Longoria said. "If you're going to make that call in that situation, it's got to be kind of blatant."
Down 6-2 after another big day by Davis — who became the first player in major-league history to knock in three or more runs in each of the first three games of the season — the Rays opened the ninth with Sean Rodriguez hit by a pitch and a Zobrist single.
Longoria lashed closer Jim Johnson's first pitch to left-center, the ball eluding both outfielders and bouncing off the wall, scoring Rodriguez.
Zobrist, however, had headed back to first in case the ball was caught and he had to tag up, while Longoria was thinking he might have a triple, and their paths led to an unfortunate meeting — or passing — as both approached second base.
So rather than having second and third with no outs and the tying run at the plate, Longoria was called out and the Rays had one on with one out, and got nothing more.
"Of course I thought it was a big turning point," Longoria said. "It really swung the momentum, not in our favor."
So who was in the wrong?
Zobrist said he was for going back to tag first rather than head to second, from where he could have retreated if the ball had been caught. "A baserunning mistake on my part," he said
Longoria said he didn't do anything he would have changed since he was running in control and knew where he was in relation to Zobrist, though he then conceded, "I could have looked up and try to pick up where he was."
Maddon said ultimately Longoria, as the trail runner, was to blame — "Just like when you hit a car from behind, whose fault is it?" — but his bigger issue was with the umpires. First-base umpire James Hoye, who made the call despite appearing a bit out of position, and crew chief John Hirschbeck, who was working second, refused to consult with home-plate umpire Jim Reynolds, who Maddon felt had a better angle of an accurate view.
"(Hoye) was adamant he got it proper so at that point there was no reason from their perspective to convene, so I can't argue beyond that," Maddon said. "I just thought I saw something different, and I was just looking for the guy with the best angle in the building to become more involved."
Hirschbeck said there was no need or protocol to review the call, made under Rule 7.08 (h). "It's a judgment, but like I told Joe, that's like a missed base. That's not something that an umpire just comes up with," he said. "That's the kind of thing either you see it or you don't.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter said from their perspective it was an obvious transgression. "If they hadn't called it, they would have had a heck of an argument, too," he said. "We saw the same thing the umpire did."
The Rays saw enough of Davis, who went 7-for-11 (.636) three doubles, three homers and 11 RBIs in the opening series. On Thursday, before 17,491 at the Trop, that included a two-run homer in the second off Roberto Hernandez, who worked into the seventh, and a two-run double in the sixth.
Maddon had joked Wednesday night to Sun Sports reporter Kelly Nash that they would stop pitching to Davis and roll the ball to the plate but declined any creative maneuvers to take the bat out of Davis' hands. "This guy's history doesn't merit that kind of respect yet," Maddon said. "But if he keeps this up, then heck yeah."
"He was just too much all series long," Zobrist said. "Any pitch that was in his zone he took it and deposited it. We were out in the outfield just kind of shaking our heads, like this is unbelievable. This guy is ridiculous right now."