ST. PETERSBURG — The physical mistake that lost the game for the Rays on Monday night was obvious: Reliever Al Reyes hung a changeup with one out in the eighth inning that Robinson Cano knocked over the rightfield fence, giving the Yankees an 8-7 win and wasting a valiant Rays comeback from six runs down.
But it was the mental mistakes the Rays (6-7) made during the game — botching a pitchout, walking the No. 9 hitter to load the bases, getting caught stealing third down by five — that drew the ire of manager Joe Maddon, who was as openly critical of his players as he has been in his three seasons on the job.
"We made too many mental mistakes tonight," Maddon said. "That's the bad part of tonight. The good part is that we fought back. I love the fight. The enthusiasm. There's a lot of grit among our group. But we have to stop making the mental mistakes that do not permit us to win games like tonight. And that's what I'm most upset about.
"Otherwise, you saw a lot of real good things tonight. You saw a lot of skillful young athletes participate in a major-league game. But if we're going to win games like this, we can't make those mistakes. They've got to go away."
Maddon was right on all counts.
The comeback was impressive as the Rays — down 7-1 in the fourth after a rough start by Andy Sonnanstine, who allowed homers to three of the first six batters — roared back with seventh-inning homers by Carl Crawford, B.J. Upton and rookie Evan Longoria in a four-batter span.
The lead didn't last, though, as Reyes — with two losses and a 9.00 ERA — got one out then hung the changeup to Cano, who had been dropped from the Yankees lineup because of a .170 average.
And the mistakes were inexcusable.
In the fourth, with the Yankees leading 3-1 and rallying with one out, the Rays guessed, correctly, that Melky Cabrera would break for second on the 1-0 pitch and called for a pitchout. But Sonnanstine didn't get it out enough, and Chad Moeller, just recalled from Triple A, slapped it through the infield. Instead of two outs and none on, the Yankees had first and third with one out.
"I thought that was a big turning point," Sonnanstine said. "To be honest with you, I don't know (what happened). It just didn't get out there enough. Maybe I need to do it more in the bullpen."
Making it worse, Sonnanstine then walked the No. 9 hitter, rookie Alberto Gonzalez, on four pitches to load the bases — "The big play," Maddon said — bringing up veteran Johnny Damon, who doubled in two runs, and was followed by Derek Jeter, who singled in two more.
"I was trying to be maybe a little bit too fine," Sonnanstine said.
That was Sonnanstine's problem all night, as he and catcher Shawn Riggans relied too much on his slider and, as Maddon said, "trying to trick them," getting away from the game plan of being aggressive and using his fastball primarily. "Not good," Maddon said.
"It wasn't like a solid decision we were going to go more offspeed," Sonnanstine said. "It was just kind of the flow of the game, and that's what happened, and it definitely didn't work out. It was a little bit of (the hitters dictating what to throw), a little bit the chemistry between me and Shawn."
Upton is one of several Rays with permission to steal at will, but his idea — no matter how sure he was he could make it — of trying to swipe third with no outs in the sixth, a rally brewing with men on first and second and the Rays down 7-2, just didn't work.
"Probably not a good situation to steal," Upton said.
No probably about it.
Marc Topkin can be reached at