DETROIT — As bad as the Rays wanted to finally go home after an 11-game, cross-country road trip, they didn't mind fighting late into the night on their final stop.
They just wanted the fight to be a fair one.
After all Tampa Bay had already tackled on the four-city trek — a spreading stomach virus, sleep deprivation and several deficits — it left Monday's 2-1, 10-inning loss to the Tigers a little frustrated after another controversial call went against it.
"It just seems like we've been on the wrong side of some tough calls lately," veteran Johnny Damon said. "And we just have to keep going out there and creating all our own luck."
The play in question was leftfielder Justin Ruggiano getting called out at the plate by home-plate umpire John Tumpane, negating the tying run and sparking arguments from (and ejections of) manager Joe Maddon and left-hander David Price.
"I never felt a tag," Ruggiano said. "Never."
The Rays would eventually tie in the eighth on a Ruggiano sacrifice fly, but they lost in the 10th on Ramon Santiago's walkoff triple, hitting a Kyle Farnsworth sinker that "didn't sink."
Tampa Bay (35-31) finished the trip 6-5 and fell to 41/2 games behind the first-place Red Sox, whom it hosts in a three-game series starting tonight. It was a character-building and successful trip, including two extra-inning wins, but Damon felt there were a couple games, like Monday's, that the Rays let "slip away."
Rookie right-hander Alex Cobb had another solid start, battling out of jams in a 52/3-inning outing, allowing one run while striking out seven. "Cobb was really good," Maddon said.
But the Rays couldn't score on previously struggling lefty Phil Coke, who showed improved velocity and allowed four hits in 61/3. Tampa Bay felt it got even in the seventh. With the bases loaded, Ruggiano slid home on a Casey Kotchman flyout.
Tigers catcher Alex Avila, who was blocking the plate, accepted the throw from Magglio Ordonez. Ruggiano hit his left leg on Avila's during a feet-first slide, and Avila appeared to whiff on two tag attempts.
"The moment my foot was actually on the plate when I was called out," Ruggiano said. "Maybe he didn't have a good angle. That happens. Whether or not I got in on the first attempt or not, I'm pretty sure I did. But if I didn't, I know I got in on the second attempt."
Tumpane wasn't available for comment. Crew chief Mike Everitt said Tumpane did a "great job" and he was "very proud of him."
"In his judgment, he believed (Ruggiano) was tagged out before he touched the plate," Everitt said.
Maddon said the replay "speaks for itself."
"Calls like that happen quite often," Maddon said. "I'm just a little annoyed that sometimes it seems to go against us on the heavy side."
Avila said he might have tagged Ruggiano's foot, but wasn't sure: "He didn't touch the plate until the end."
The Rays had chances, going 1-for-6 with runners in scoring position. All in all, Maddon was proud of the way his team battled Monday, and the entire trip.
"It's all about the fight," he said.
Joe Smith can be reached at email@example.com.