CHICAGO — More than the pitch hit over the outfielder that scored the game-losing run in the 12th inning, and more than the pitch laced into the rightfield corner that brought in the tying run five innings earlier, it was the pitch that ticked off the side of rookie catcher Curt Casali's glove and bounced a few feet away that cost the Rays the most in Sunday's frustrating 3-2 defeat.
"It's a terrible feeling, especially the way we were fighting all game," Casali said. "I'm pretty angry with myself."
The Cubs had the potential winning run on second with one out when reliever Cesar Ramos bounced that curve to strike out rookie phenom Javier Baez.
But Casali, in his eighth big-league start, tried to catch the ball rather than block it. As the ball skipped away, so did the Rays' hopes of not letting another game they can't afford to lose get away, as they dropped to 57-60 and 6½ back in the race for the second American League wild card.
The Cubs then had the winning run on third, with Baez moving up to second after another wild pitch, and the Rays were in their five-man infield alignment when Anthony Rizzo singled beyond the reach of center-rightfielder Kevin Kiermaier to end it.
Though manager Joe Maddon tried to deflect the blame, saying, "Do not get on Curt," Casali took it all.
"There's no excuse," Casali said. "I should block that ball. He threw a curveball and just caught me in between catching it and blocking it. And that's what happens when I make a poor decision like that to try to pick it as opposed to block it. We extended the inning and gave them something to go with.
"Immediately out of his hand I thought I was going to be able to catch it in the air, and by the time it dropped and he swung, I just lost track of it for a millisecond and it just skidded off the edge of my glove. Can't happen. It changed the whole complexion of the game. It's on me."
Certainly there was more that went into the loss.
The Rays were 2-for-9 with runners in scoring position and left nine on, failing to convert in the 10th and 11th. The Wrigley wind knocked down a potential three-run Sean Rodriguez homer in the seventh.
More damning, they twice gave up the lead.
In the fifth, Alex Cobb allowed a single to opposing starter Travis Wood, who came around to make it 1-1. "It was a little frustrating," Cobb said.
In the seventh, Grant Balfour got two quick outs, then allowed a double to Ryan Sweeney, with lefty Chris Coghlan up next. Maddon had lefty Jeff Beliveau warming, but noting Coghlan was hitting nearly 100 points better vs. lefties (.358-.268), he left Balfour in.
That didn't work, as Balfour threw a 3-and-2 curve that didn't curve much and Coghlan laced it into the corner.
In the 12th, Ramos, who hadn't pitched since Tuesday, gave up a leadoff single to Sweeney, who went to second base on a bunt. He then threw the pitch to Baez that changed just about everything.
Ramos then threw a slider to Rizzo trying for a swing and miss or a ground ball, but Rizzo got underneath it.
"It's one of those things," Maddon said. "You've got to put trust in your guys and see if they can do it."
On this day, they could not.
Contact Marc Topkin at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @TBTimes_Rays.