ST. PETERSBURG — It turned out not to be the game-changing play Thursday afternoon. Heck, the Rays' bullpen couldn't keep a close game close, and the offense managed just one run against the Angels.
So even if Albert Pujols had been called out for violating the slide rule at second base and the sixth inning had ended without the Angels scoring their second run, the math says the Rays would still have lost, which they did, 5-1.
But the decision by Pujols not to slide to break up a double play caused second baseman Logan Forsythe's throw to sail over the head of Nick Franklin at first and allowed Mike Trout to score what turned out to be the winning run. The play withstood a replay challenge.
"(The umpires) describe it as their discretion," Forsythe said. "I think they were at fault on that."
It turned out to be just another play in another loss during a sorry 22-game stretch for the Rays that has drawn comparison to the old Devil Rays.
"Losing ball games is bad," manager Kevin Cash said. "We're here to win. You go in a stretch where you lose a bunch in a row or you lose one, they all sting."
Thursday's loss stung for a number of reasons.
The Rays wasted the best start of Blake Snell's young career: six innings, four hits, two runs.
They ended the homestand with their eighth loss in 11 games.
Since June 16 they are 3-19, the worst 22-game stretch in team history.
And the loss stung because the interpretation of an umpire went against them on a play that might — might — have altered the outcome.
The Rays trailed 1-0 at the time after a run-scoring single by Pujols that moved Trout to third. C.J. Cron grounded to Forsythe, who stepped on second and tried to throw to first. But Pujols went into the base standing up, so Forsythe had to alter his throw.
"I was running," Pujols said. "I think it would've been worse if I would've slid right there because I could've hurt (Forsythe). I tried to avoid him, and that's what I told him in the (eighth) inning when I was on base.
"It was one of those in-between. … I just couldn't slide. I tried to avoid it. I tried to avoid it to give (Forsythe) a path to throw the ball, but it was just one of those crazy plays where you're in between."
It was not a violation of the slide rule, crew chief Dana DeMuth said, because the runner does not have to slide.
"In my judgement, there was no obvious intent," second-base umpire Ed Hickox told a pool reporter. "(Pujols) was simply running the bases."
Said Cash, "If you're not sliding, to me that's intent enough."
Forsythe and Pujols discussed the play when Pujols reached second base in the eighth. "He knew that he was at fault," Forsythe said, "and he apologized."
At last, a small victory for the Rays.