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Bad bounces help knock Rays out of first place

NEW YORK — During the sizzling past month in which they have won almost every day, the Rays have had so many things seem to go their way. But in Sunday's 6-5 walkoff loss to the Yankees, they had all kinds of things that did not:

Simple ground balls bouncing the wrong way, including the game-ending single by Alfonso Soriano. A fly ball ticking off the glove of Wil Myers — who hit two home runs of his own — for a lead-changing homer.

And oddest of all, reliever Jake McGee's belt breaking as he pitched in the middle of the game-deciding rally.

"I knew it was going to break eventually," McGee said. "It was pretty worn out. It's the same belt from last year. It's seen better days."

So, too, have the Rays (62-43). With the loss, just their fourth in 25 games, and the Red Sox's win in Baltimore, the Rays' two-day stay in first place of the American League East ended. They are a half-game back in second as they make up Thursday's rainout against the Red Sox tonight at Fenway Park, where the division standings are displayed on the outfield wall.

"I was hoping to get up there and see us on top of that board," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "We're not. Just keep plugging."

Starter Matt Moore wasn't nearly as impressive as he was Monday in his first career complete game, a 3-0 win over the Red Sox, pitching himself out of the game after five innings by throwing 91 pitches. "Not quite as sharp," Moore said. "My pitch count was never in check."

Myers, though, continued to be plenty impressive at the plate, logging his first career multihomer game, a three-run blast to left and a solo shot to right. He hit his first homer at Yankee Stadium on June 22.

He didn't do as well in the field. Soriano's homer in the third hit the top of his glove as Myers didn't get all the way back to the wall. "If I had one more step, I feel like I could catch the ball," he said.

McGee, making just his third multi-inning outing of the season, said the wardrobe malfunction didn't impact his pitching but created what he acknowledged was an awkward moment on the mound.

The elastic belt snapped on the second or third of his eight-pitch at-bat to ninth-inning leadoff man Brett Gardner that resulted in a walk, and it eventually worked its way out of the loops. Third baseman Evan Longoria — always thinking team first — ran to the dugout and got Matt Joyce to volunteer a replacement.

McGee threaded in the new belt — the belts are essentially one size fits all — and promptly threw a wild pitch to Derek Jeter, who already had had his dramatic moment in coming off the disabled list and homering on the first pitch from Moore.

The wild pitch allowed Gardner to take second. But, no, McGee said, the belt wasn't the reason for it. "It was just one of those things when you stop, walk off, you think, you put it on," he said. "It's something that's awkward."

Maddon went to the mound to strategize, and they decided to put Jeter on, allowing the left-handed McGee to face lefty-swinging Robinson Cano, hoping for a double play. Instead, McGee struck out Cano, and when Maddon, who had Jamey Wright warming, saw McGee's 98 mph fastball, he let McGee stay.

The first pitch to Soriano was up a little, and he rolled it through the infield to score the winning run.

"We're just looking for a ground ball," Maddon said. "We got it. We were just very unlucky with ground balls (Sunday) being in the wrong spots."

Indeed. There were two in the first, off Moore's glove and shortstop Yunel Escobar's foot, leading to three runs, and another in the third off second baseman Kelly Johnson's glove. Even worse was Soriano's fly ball ticking off the top of Myers' glove as he leaped a step in front of the wall.

"There were all kinds of off-ofs (Sunday)," Maddon said. "And it was just unfortunate."

Bad bounces help knock Rays out of first place 07/28/13 [Last modified: Monday, July 29, 2013 12:20pm]

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