ST. PETERSBURG — The hushed talk in the quiet clubhouse after the Rays' disappointing 6-4 loss Saturday to the Giants was about isolated mistakes, specifically a couple of bad pitches in the eighth and ninth innings by their best relievers.
"Tough loss," manager Kevin Cash said. "We had somewhat control of the ball game. We go to two guys that we've really leaned on and relied upon, and it just wasn't meant to be today."
First, Erasmo Ramirez, their trusty fire extinguisher, failed to protect a 3-2 lead in the eighth, allowing a pair of singles that led to the tying run, the second to Brandon Crawford on a fat fastball that wasn't nearly as inside as it was supposed to be.
"It didn't work," Ramirez said. "I didn't execute the pitch."
Then Alex Colome, their untouchable closer who hadn't allowed a run since May 1, a string of 19 outings and 21 innings, put the dagger in their day. After missing a liner that launched the Giants rally, he threw a cutter/slider to Joe Panik that didn't do either, resulting in a three-run homer.
"I missed a pitch," Colome said. "It's only one bad pitch. I don't have any excuse."
But it's also fair to wonder if the loss is the product of the cumulative effect of all the early usage catching up with them.
Both Ramirez and Colome insist they feel good. The Rays say they are fine. But recent results suggest otherwise.
And it doesn't seem a coincidence the Rays are now letting starters go deeper — or at least throw more pitches — and shifted Matt Andriese to relief duty as ways to mitigate the load on Ramirez and Colome.
After a stellar run to start the season, Ramirez has been much more hittable and fallible of late, whether it's fatigue or just a funk as the Rays are hoping.
"I think Erasmo probably isn't totally out of it yet," Cash acknowledged. "It looked like he was probably getting underneath some balls today that cause them run back over the plate.
"The two changeups that he threw to Crawford when he had him (0-2), a month ago Erasmo's getting (a) swing and miss on that pitch, probably making a little bit better located pitch. Today he didn't. He had to throw him a fastball that caught a lot of plate."
And though Colome had the flashy scoreless streak and has converted all 19 save opportunities, the degree of difficulty is getting increasing severe and the duty more taxing.
Cash insisted there is no cause for concern.
"Not at all," he said. "He's been outstanding. He got burnt by a mistake and that is what it is. Hopefully he's pitching for us again (today) because if he is, that means we're winning the game."
Certainly there was more to it Saturday as the Rays, wearing their faux throwback uniforms, created to be in 1970s style, lost a third straight, dropping to 31-35 and last place in the American League East.
Worth noting, like when they got spanked by the Royals a couple of weeks ago, are the differences in how the Rays and Giants play the game, obvious in many ways.
Matt Moore, working on his 27th birthday, pitched into the seventh, allowing only two runs. But his otherwise solid outing was marred by a messy sequence, loading the bases to start the fifth then hitting Panik with an 0-2 pitch.
Though there was some flashy defense, there was also a glaring mistake, outfielders Corey Dickerson and Mikie Mahtook inexplicably letting a fly ball drop between then, adding to Moore's stress and pitch total.
And though the Rays scored four runs, they all came on solo homers, as they were 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position and left seven on base.
But for all they went through, they still felt pretty good putting the one-run lead in Ramirez's right hand, then turning a tie game over to Colome. They had been 21-2 when leading after seven innings, after all.
Ramirez, Colome and Xavier Cedeno huddled in one corner of the clubhouse to discuss what went wrong and move past it. Cash made it clear he still had immense confidence in both. Catcher Curt Casali and Moore led the chorus of how uncharacteristic it was to see them fail but understandable in that no one is always on.
"It's only a bad day," Colome said. "You know, we're human."
Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected]tampabay.com. Follow @ TBTimes_Rays.