ST. PETERSBURG — Carl Crawford was scratched from the lineup for Friday's opener of the big series with the Red Sox due to a stomach virus. By the end of the night, he wasn't the only one leaving the Trop with a sick feeling.
It wasn't just that the Rays lost to the Red Sox 3-1 and allowed them to get within 4½ games in an Aug. 27 meeting that had a September feel and ramifications, but how bad they looked in doing so.
"Tonight is definitely a night I want to forget quick," third baseman Evan Longoria said. "I think it was a frustrating night for all of us. We're all antsy to get this stretch under way and to play well and push our way into the playoffs. And tonight was not a good start."
The breakdowns were many:
David Price allowing a career-high matching 10 hits, including a pair of two-out solo home runs to Victor Martinez and a two-out RBI single to Jed Lowrie.
Longoria failing to deliver with two men on in each of his first three at-bats and finishing with his first three-strikeout game of the season.
B.J. Upton getting thrown out as the potential tying run in the sixth after a bad break off second and an admitted "bad send" by third-base coach Tom Foley.
And those — along with catcher Kelly Shoppach nearly nailing Price on a throw to second — were just the lowlights as the Rays were held to three singles, their major-league most 11th game with three or fewer hits.
Plus, they extended their freaky Friday failures to 3-17 and failed to sell out with the usual bipartisan blue-and-red crowd of 29,461 accompanied by about 7,000 empty seats.
The Rays (78-50) said all the expected things about it being just one game and pointed to the good news of the Yankees losing to the White Sox, which kept the Rays tied for the top spot in the American League East.
There was a different perspective, obviously, in the Boston clubhouse.
"We definitely classified this as a big game," first baseman Mike Lowell said. "It's obviously a big series. This could be a significant turning point for us."
With Price making his mistakes and Boston starter Jon Lester dominating with less than his usual overpowering stuff (and despite five walks and three wild pitches), the turning point of the game came in the sixth.
The Rays were down 2-1 and threatening to tie, with Upton on second after a walk and a steal, when Jason Bartlett hit a line drive single to center.
Manager Joe Maddon said that's where the problems started, that Upton "kind of hesitated a bit" and didn't get a good jump.
"I think that's really where the play was lost, on the original first step," he said.
Foley and Upton said the breakdown occurred later as Foley made what he said was a bad decision. That his decision seemed to come late and that Upton appeared to slow down then reaccelerate, leading to an unusually wide turn, didn't help.
"Hindsight? Bad send," Foley said. "I knew it was going to be close if it was a good throw, and (centerfielder Darnell McDonald) put it right on the money. In that situation, nobody out, pretty much got to be sure he's going to score the run."
"It's just a tough decision to make for Fo all around," Upton said. "I wouldn't have done anything different. He went with his gut instinct. … That's a chance you take, and sometimes, they don't work out."
That's kind of how Price felt, allowing as many as 10 hits for just the second time in his 49-start career, extending his winless streak to three and seeing his ERA go above 3.00 for the first time since his season debut.
"It's disappointing," he said.
Marc Topkin can be reached at email@example.com.