ATLANTA — The Rays didn't have very many chances to crack Braves right-hander Tommy Hanson on Wednesday night.
But they certainly lamented their golden opportunity in the sixth, when a controversial call damaged a rally and turned the tide in a 6-2 loss at Turner Field.
The Rays, down three runs at the time, had runners on second and third with one out. When a Hanson pitch got away from catcher Brian McCann and hit the backstop, Hank Blalock tried to score from third but was called out by home plate umpire Paul Emmel. Replays showed Blalock was safe.
Blalock and manager Joe Maddon argued to no avail, and the Rays came up empty in the inning, with Evan Longoria flying out after a Carl Crawford walk and stolen base.
"It changes the whole game," Maddon said. "That run is in, we have a runner on third with one out, and it would have been 3-1. It pretty much changed the course of events of all time right there."
Maddon said he thought Hanson tagged Blalock high or late. When asked about the play, Hanson smiled and said only that the play was close.
"I felt like I made an aggressive baserunning play to get our team back in the game," Blalock said. "And scoring that run, I thought, would have given us a lot more momentum. And the replays showed I was safe."
Despite losing, the Rays (41-24) remained tied for first in the American League East because of a Yankees loss to the Phillies.
Tampa Bay got a solid but shorter outing out of rookie right-hander Wade Davis (5-7), who gave up three runs over five innings before getting pulled after 81 pitches for pinch-hitter Blalock with one out in the sixth.
The Braves' only damage to Davis came in the third, when they scored three runs with two outs. With runners on the corners, Davis gave up a double on a 3-0 pitch to McCann and then a two-run single to Troy Glaus.
"They got a couple hits and found some holes," Davis said. "It's a tough one to swallow. I didn't make a whole lot of mistakes, just a 3-0 pitch to McCann. It was not a bad pitch. I threw a strike, and it got hit."
Davis didn't have much margin for error. The Rays' offense, which scored 10 runs the night before, scuffled, for the most part. The Rays credited Hanson (7-3), who has won four of his past five starts, for mixing his pitches well and hitting his spots.
And when the Rays got pitches to hit, they didn't take advantage. Even hot-hitting Longoria's majors-high streak of reaching base safely in 32 games was snapped.
"You know (Hanson is) good, and he definitely had it tonight," centerfielder B.J. Upton said. "Tip your hat to him; he threw a great game."
The Braves added a run in the sixth on a solo homer by ex-Ray Eric Hinske off Dan Wheeler and got two more off Andy Sonnanstine in the eighth.
The Rays didn't score until the ninth on a Ben Zobrist RBI single and Dioner Navarro RBI double. But Sean Rodriguez grounded out to end the game, and his 15-game hitting streak.
"I'll just start a new one (today)," Rodriguez said, smiling.