ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays finally saw some glimpses of that improved offense they've been talking about. And they felt pretty good about their first peek at Alex Colome pitching at the end of a game.
But the reason they ended up with a 3-2 victory over the Blue Jays on Tuesday night was something nobody had ever seen before — a game determined by Major League Baseball's new rule governing slides into second base.
And making it even more dramatic, it came on a replay challenge on the final play.
The New York-based crew determined that Jose Bautista "hindered and impeded" Rays second baseman Logan Forsythe's ability to turn a double play as he forced a wild throw.
That wiped out the two runs Toronto scored and ended the game, leaving the Rays to celebrate a walkoff replay reversal.
"We're happy we won," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "I can understand the frustration on the other side."
There was plenty.
"What are we, trying to turn the game into a joke? It's a flat-out embarrassment," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "Baseball's been a hard-nosed game. … There's really no explanation for it. I don't get it.
"We had a chance to win and take the lead. It's a joke. It's a shame. I get the intent. You go after somebody, you hurt somebody, I get that. But that's been baseball forever. Maybe you ought to run and get out of the way.
"He went right over the bag. I don't know how exactly they ruled that or who made that decision. Momentum took him a little bit that way. That's going to go down in history as the first one. Hopefully they look at that another day."
Asked about the safety aspect of the new rules, Gibbons said: "I guess we'll come out wearing dresses tomorrow."
Cash gave all the credit to Jeremy Sowers, the former Indians pitcher who took over as the Rays' video review man, based on how quickly he called the dugout. "Once the phone rang, we figured out why they were calling," Cash said.
Sowers said Rays officials had been talking the last few days about the slide rule and how it will be enforced. As soon as he saw Bautista reach out and grab at Forsythe, and slide past the base, he had a pretty good idea.
"I think we had a compelling argument that it interfered with Logan's ability,'' Sowers said. "Considering the situation it was obviously in our best interest to take a look.''
Down 2-0 during an overall solid outing by Jake Odorizzi, who struck out 10 working into the sixth but also made a costly throwing error, the Rays came back.
They got one run on a massive homer, estimated at 453 feet, by Corey Dickerson, the second in three games for the new designated hitter. Then they took the lead in the eighth on a two-run shot by Forsythe, who had been hitless over the first two games in his new leaodoff role.
Colome, working his second inning in his first test as the initial replacement for injured Brad Boxberger as the Rays' highest-leverge reliever, gave up a couple of singles and a walk to Bautista to load the bases.
That brought Edwin Encarnacion to the plate, then history to the fore.
Encarnacion bounced a ball to third baseman Evan Longoria, who threw to Forsythe, who tried to turn the double play. Bautista slid in hard, and as he went by the base he reached out with his left hand and hit Forsythe's right foot, causing the errant throw.
"I felt something on the slide,'' Forsythe said. "When I first saw him coming in, I thought he was going over the bag. I don't know if he went out to try to catch a back foot. ... He swung me around a little bit."
Bautista said he didn't think that contact — "let alone something so subtle and soft" — was illegal under the new rule.
"Common sense has to come into this at some point,'' he said. "I felt like I respected the rule. I felt it was absolutely a clean slide. It's disappointing and somewhat embarrassing. There's so much at stake every day here. We grow up playing the game a certain way, since we were little kids. To have everything taken away like that is just strange."
Umpiring crew chief Mike Everitt said he was limited to passing on what the replay officials sent him in terms of an explanation:
"After viewing all relevant angles the replay official definitely determined that the runner violated Rule 601 J. The runner's actions hindered and impeded the fielder. Additionally, he did not engage in a bona fide slide as he did not attempt to remain on the base."
Asked by a pool reporter what he or his crew saw, Everitt said, "That's it. … That's what we got. It went to replay and that's what it is.''
Actually, Forsythe said, the Rays' first win of the season was something else:
"It was wild.''
Marc Topkin can be reached at email@example.com. Follow @TBTimes_Rays.