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Tampa Bay Rays fall to A's in extra innings to drop below .500

ST. PETERSBURG — The way the Rays lost Tuesday’s game was frustrating enough: a two-out walk, an error by their sure-handed shortstop and a three-run homer in the 11th off Joe Nelson turning a scoreless duel into what ended as a 4-1 defeat.

How many times they failed to win it — failing time after time after time, leaving seven men in scoring position by going 0-for-11 — and how strong of a start by James Shields they wasted made it even worse.

"I really thought we were going to win that game," said Evan Longoria, who went 0-for-5. "I had a feeling with the roll that we were on that something was going to give and we were going to figure out a way to win it. You can't put any of the blame on Nellie. The game shouldn't have even gotten to that point. "Offensively, we didn't do our job. I shouldn’t say we — I didn't do my job (striking out twice with runners in scoring position), so that’s it. You don’t do it, you don’t deserve to win."

They didn't, and they didn't, ending their season-high four-game winning streak and falling back under .500, at 20-21, after working for a month to get there.

The frustration that filled the clubhouse was a product of knowing they should have done better. "It sucks to lose that game," shortstop Jason Bartlett said. "But we had so many chances, I don't know what to say."

Manager Joe Maddon said it's the kind of game they’ve permitted to get away too often, making mistakes in key situations.

"The close game in general that we're very capable of winning and we haven't with any kind of consistency — that's what I'm talking about," Maddon said. "It seems to be a different component of our team. As always, it's a team victory and a team loss. It's just that we have to be able to avoid those and come out on top in those games."

Which was more to blame?

The offense that was shackled by Oakland's unheralded pitchers, led by rookie starter Josh Outman? Three times, in the third, seventh and eighth innings, the Rays had a runner on third with less than two outs. In the ninth and 10th , they had the potential winning run on second.

Longoria, Carlos Peña and Bartlett were a combined 1-for-13 with six strikeouts, but essentially it was a team effort. B.J. Upton and Carl Crawford had a chance. Willy Aybar, Akinori Iwamura and Gabe Kapler had a chance. Longoria and Bartlett had a chance. Dioner Navarro had a chance, and Upton another. Longoria, Peña and Bartlett had the final chance.

"We just can't have that many opportunities and not come away with anything," Upton said.

Or their defense/pitching in the 11th?

J.P. Howell got the first out then Dan Wheeler got the second, got ahead of Kurt Suzuki 0-and-1 then threw four straight balls. Bartlett was in the right spot, shifted on the other side of second, for Jack Cust's grounder off Nelson but just failed to make the play that would have ended the inning.

"It was coming harder than I thought it was," he said. "I'd have to look at (the video), but I know it hit my bicep so it wasn’t even close to my glove."

Then Nelson did his part, going from 0-and-2 to 3-and-2 and giving up the 428-foot blast to Holliday that made all the difference.

"Bartlett has picked us up all year, it was an opportunity for me to pick him up and I didn't do it," Nelson said. "Didn't execute."

It was that kind of night.

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

Tampa Bay Rays fall to A's in extra innings to drop below .500 05/19/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 20, 2009 12:39am]
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