SEATTLE — Sean Rodriguez didn't have an excuse.
"Just messed up, plain and simple,'' Rodriguez said. ""There's really no explanation. Just something that should never happen and it did. Just a straight messed up play. I messed up. I don't know to explain it. I can't. I just messed up.''
Of all the Rays did wrong in Friday's staggering 6-4 loss to the Mariners, and there was plenty from a so-so start by Alex Cobb, more inept offense, an inexplicable error by Desmond Jennings that set up the winning rally and a missed catch by Wil Myers that scored the decisive runs, it was Rodriguez's inexcusable base-running mistake that stood out.
Two on, no outs, the Rays down by one in the eighth inning, no play on, and Rodriguez gets picked off second base, costing them a chance at a go-ahead run.
"That game right there, a lot of negative things can happen ... but you can't get picked off at second base,'' manager Joe Maddon said. "That's the only thing that really bothered me about all of that. People make errors, you swing at pitches in the dirt, etc. But the one part of that game that really upset me was that, and I'm just being honest.'' The loss was the Rays' sixth in the first eight games of their West Coast road trip that ends Sunday, and the 10th in their last 13. They dropped to 77-63 and pretty much out of the American League East race, as they are now 7½ games behind the Red Sox with 22 to play, including three at the Trop starting Tuesday.
The Rays still hold the second AL wild card, trailing the wild-card-leading Rangers by three games. But the Rays' margin over their pursuers continues to shrink, with just a two-game advantage over the Indians and Orioles, and 2½ over the Yankees. "It's a real frustrating time for us right now,'' Maddon said. "I've used that word a lot over the last two weeks.'' After Alex Cobb admittedly battled himself as much as the Mariners through six innings and Delmon Young was the primary offensive catalyst with a homer and a double that to a run, the Rays got to the eighth down a run and despite Rodriguez's glaring mistake still tied it, as Luke Scott delivered a two-out pinch-hit double that scored Myers from first.
Then they lost it in the bottom of the inning.
Jennings was tracking Kyle Seager's drive to left-center fine, but the ball somehow bounced out of his glove, putting the go-ahead run on second.
"I dropped the ball. It hit me in the glove, I just dropped it,'' Jennings said. "I saw it, I had it — I thought I had it — and it popped out.''
It was Jennings third error in the last 11 games since coming off the disabled list after making only one from the start of 2012 until then, but the situation was the bigger concern. "It's frustrating because it cost us the game,'' Jennings said. "I make that play and we get the next guy and we get out of the inning. That's why it's frustrating.''
Joel Peralta walked Kendrys Morales, then got Michael Saunders swinging for the second out.
Justin Smoak laced a ball toward the rightfield corner, Myers diving after a long run but the ball bouncing off the heel of his glove and allowing both runners to score.
"Off the bat I didn't (think it was catchable) but as I was running to it I saw that it was going to be within reach,'' Myers said. "I gave it a good effort. It just hit off the heel of my glove. I just over-dove a little bit. It was tough. But those things happen. I think if I got another shot at it I would have caught it. It's just one of those things you learn from.''
Maddon acknowledged how weird it was for so many things to go wrong.
"A lot of extremely odd stuff has been happening and there's really no answer for it,'' he said. "We have to be able to make those plays to go to the promised land. You've got to be able to do those things.''
The offense once again didn't do much.
The Rays had the bases loaded in the third and got only one run, on a wild pitch, before Young grounded out. They had first and third with one out in the fourth, but Yunel Escobar grounded into a double play. They got a run in the sixth but left two on when Escobar lined out. They had two on in the seventh when Young struck out.
But their greatest failure may have been in the eighth, even though they tied the score. Consider they got three walks, a single and a double and got only one run. Evan Longoria - looking what Maddon called "over-amped" in swinging at the first two pitches — capped it by grounding to third for the final out, making the Rays 2-for-their-last-17 with the bases loaded, but Rodriguez's pick off hurt worse.
There was no play on, no steal, no bunt, no reason for Rodriguez to take any kind of risk. "Got caught too far away from the bag,'' Rodriguez said.
Asked if he sought an explanation from Rodriguez, the typically mild-mannered Maddon said: "I did not. I was not wanting to go anywhere near that at that point.''
For a team that typically plays well in September, Friday's game was another stark reminder of how they have not.
Maddon called it "a game we should have won,'' then quickly adding, "but we are not winning that game, That game has happened way too often this year.'