KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Rays appeared to be quite right about Desmond Jennings, who made an electrifying season debut Saturday.
But the night ended up once again being about all they did wrong, losing another game they had ample opportunities to win, 5-4 in 10 innings to the Royals.
Closer Kyle Farnsworth blew a one-run lead with two outs in the ninth, the hitters showed more staggering futility as they loaded the bases to start the 10th and got nothing out of it, then Brandon Gomes lost it on just two pitches.
Manager Joe Maddon acknowledged before the game the Rays (52-47) were in a "kind of limbo position" regarding their postseason possibilities and the looming trade deadline, and a second straight loss to the lowly Royals didn't help as they stayed 6½ games behind the wild-card-leading Yankees and dropped 9½ behind the first-place Red Sox in the AL East.
"This is a game that we had, we had so many different ways, and we did not win it," Maddon said. "Can't do that. Can't do that."
"We should have won it," said centerfielder B.J. Upton, whose fate could be most affected by a fall from the race. "Bottom line."
With Jennings tripling and doubling in his first two at-bats, then later showing his blazing speed by scoring from first on a routine double, the Rays took a 4-3 lead into the ninth and seemed set to reward Jeff Niemann for his solid six-inning outing in the sweltering heat (101 degrees at first pitch, feels-like of 105).
But Farnsworth failed first, allowing a one-out walk and a two-out double to Alex Gordon to tie it, blowing his fourth save.
Evan Longoria and Upton walked to open the 10th and Matt Joyce singled, but Casey Kotchman grounded back to the mound, then both pinch-hitter Sam Fuld and Elliot Johnson went down looking at strike three from Joakim Soria.
Maddon said he "really believed" Fuld would at least put the ball in play. Johnson said he knew in retrospect he should have: "I've got to get the bat off my shoulder."
Those failures, though, are routine. They also had the bases loaded in the first and didn't score and the first two on in the fourth, leaving 11 on total, going 4-for-18 with runners in scoring position and striking out a season-high 15 times.
"Those are the things that are really biting us badly," Maddon said.
The end came quickly in the 10th, Billy Butler blooping a single on Gomes' first fastball and Eric Hosmer lining a double on his second.
"Certainly something we should have won," Johnson said.
Jennings at least provided a sense of excitement, which may be all the Rays have to offer in August and September. He reached his first four times up — two extra-base hits, two walks — showing off the athleticism and instincts the Rays believe can make him an impact player.
"Desmond had a wonderful day," Maddon said.
Jennings, who hit .190 in 17 games last season, will get the chance to play every day, primarily in leftfield (unless Upton is traded) and at least initially at the top of the order. He was promoted Friday night after hitting .275 with 12 homers, 39 RBIs and 13 stolen bases in 89 games at Triple-A Durham.
Despite spending three seasons at Durham, accruing nearly 1,000 plate appearances (and hitting .283 with an .806 OPS), Jennings, 24, insisted he wasn't frustrated by the lack of progress or doubting his future.
"I figured I'd get here when they felt like it was time for me to be here," he said. "I feel as though I did enough for them to call me up. I wasn't frustrated at all. … You can only control what you can control. I wasn't really thinking about it. I was just playing in Durham. I was enjoying it. I'm glad I'm not there now."