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Tampa Bay Rays blow two leads, lose 5-4 in 10 innings to Oakland Athletics

ST. PETERSBURG — There was a balk that, upon further review by the umpires, wasn't a balk. A double that, after a reversed call, wasn't a double.

And a Johnny Damon blast that looked so much like a walkoff homer teammates were hopping the dugout rail to celebrate that wasn't anything more than a long out.

But of all the things that weren't as they seemed in Sunday's 5-4, 10-inning loss at Tropicana Field to the A's, most disappointing — and damning — for the Rays was that David Price wasn't David Price.

On a day when they needed their ace left-hander to step up in maintaining their slight post­season hopes, Price stepped out on them, giving up a rare lead twice and, by throwing 110 pitches, failing to last five innings.

"Just to be himself," manager Joe Maddon said. "Just to go out there and throw his normal game, you're looking at probably seven innings solid. That's what you think."

Price would have thought so, too, and the frustration was obvious as he dressed quietly, with little in way of explanation for his latest failure. He feels fine, his mechanics are good, there's no issue with his catchers or the umpires.

"I have no idea," Price said. "I've got to pitch better. I've got to figure it out. I've got to do something, man."

The Rays — 59-54, and still 10 games off the AL wild-card pace — led 1-0 and 3-1, but Price gave it back in an ugly fifth, capped by Hideki Matsui's homer.

"Just terrible," Price said.

He was off from the start, allowing the leadoff man on in each of his five innings and throwing 73 of his 110 pitches from the stretch, and few of them well. Of the seven hits he allowed, five were to left-handers, in 10 at-bats; coming in he had allowed lefties only a .154 average (21-for-136).

"He was not right," Maddon said. "Command overall was not normal, velocity looked kind of okay. Just did not have a good feel for it today. You knew it was not going to get better."

Actually it got worse as Price left after putting two more on in the fifth, and J.P. Howell's wild pitch allowed the A's to take a 4-3 lead. Evan Longoria provided some relief when he homered off old mate Grant Balfour to tie it with two outs in the seventh, but then the umpires stepped in.

Having already waved off a balk call with two Rays on in the fourth because they decided Trevor Cahill actually had stepped off the mound, home-plate umpire Mike DiMuro then reversed Tim Welke's fair call on Ben Zobrist's shot down the rightfield line, taking away a promising double and one of the Rays' last chances. Zobrist eventually popped out.

Damon's fly, with one on and two out in the ninth, carried to the rightfield wall — and caused the Rays who were celebrating prematurely back into the dugout. And after rookie Jake McGee left a fastball over the plate that Josh Willingham knocked over the leftfield fence, they had one more chance, Zobrist hustling and Casey Kotchman hitting their way on, but B.J. Upton popped out and Matt Joyce's liner up the middle was snagged by shortstop Eric Sogard.

"We've had a tough time winning close games," Longoria said. "We've got to find a way to win those games."

Price relishes the chance to pitch big games, but with just one win in his past eight starts, and an overall 9-10 record, he can't seem to do anything to help.

"It stinks," he said. "It's been a frustrating month and a half. So it's got to change."

Marc Topkin can be reached at topkin@sptimes.com.

A's 5

Rays 4

10 innings

Tampa Bay Rays blow two leads, lose 5-4 in 10 innings to Oakland Athletics 08/07/11 [Last modified: Sunday, August 7, 2011 10:03pm]
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