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Tampa Bay Rays rally, then fall to Angels in 11 innings

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Apparently the Rays didn't have a hangover from Sunday's perfect game, as they rapped out 12 hits Monday and rallied late to score four actual runs and force extra innings.

But they still have a headache this morning when it turned out to be for naught as the Angels rallied in the 11th for a 5-4 win.

The game ended, at nearly 2:15 Tampa Bay time, when Juan Rivera's sac fly scored Kendry Morales, who singled off Grant Balfour, went to second on a bunt, and then third on a wild pitch that rookie catcher John Jaso insisted was his fault.

"(Bad) way to finish,'' Balfour said. "That's the way it goes.''

But while the Rays lost a season-high third straight, they at least showed some fight that had been missing.

"It was a tough loss, obviously a tough way to lose,'' Evan Longoria said. "But there were a lot of positives, so hopefully we can take that out of today's game and build on it and turn it around tomorrow.''

Consider how bad it had been. Ben Zobrist's single with two outs in the first ended a stretch of 37 Rays hitters making outs in order. And their run in the eighth snapped a 23-inning scoreless streak that dated to the second inning on Saturday.

So when they rallied again and scored three more in the ninth off Angels closer Brian Fuentes to force extra innings, it was something of a monumental achievement.

"We played our butts off tonight,'' said manager Joe Maddon, who was critical of the energy level on Sunday. "I was real pleased with the effort. Great comeback in the end. We just could not get that extra run in.''

They were four outs from a second consecutive shutout, when they suddenly came to life in the eighth. With something of an excuse-me swing, Longoria snapped an 0-for-13 (and 0-for-his-new-haircut) skid, poking a ball down the rightfield line for a double. "I needed that,'' he said. "Everyone was kind hitting ball right at guys today, so for that to fall gave me a little more confidence at the plate.''

After Carlos Peña — in a miserable 1-for-40 skid that has his average down to .179 — broke Fred McGriff's franchise record with his 306th walk, Jaso followed with a run-scoring single, his third hit of the night. That run kept these supposedly high-powered Rays from the brink of infamy, as the 23 consecutive zeroes were three shy of the franchise record for futility, the 26 scoreless innings by the horrid 2002 squad that lost 106 games, featuring the likes of Brent Abernathy, Jared Sandberg, Steve Cox, Chris Gomez and Aubrey Huff.

From there, the Rays added three in the ninth to tie. Willy Aybar homered off Angels closer Brian Fuentes and, after Jason Bartlett hustled to beat out an infield single and Ben Zobrist drew a two-out walk, Longoria delivered a two-run double.

They could have had more as Peña was hit by a pitch and he and Longoria moved up to second and third, but Jaso lined to second.

They had a decent chance in the 10th when Gabe Kapler singled with one out, but leftfielder Juan Rivera ran down Aybar's drive, and Kapler was caught stealing when Angels manager Mike Scioscia apparently had a good idea of what former protégé Maddon would do and called a pitchout.

The Rays still have the best record in the majors at 22-10, but they don't look anything like the team that was playing the best, not with Peña hitting .179, Bartlett in a 6-for-36 slump, Carl Crawford going 0-for-15 before an eighth-inning single and Longoria 0-for-13 until his.

"We were going so good there for so long it seemed like everything was falling,'' Longoria said. "Now it's one of those times where everything seems to be hit right at people. And balls that were getting to the wall for them are now going out of the park. We just have to find a way to turn it around,''

For a time, they were still winning games because their starting pitching was dominating. Lately, not so much.

Matt Garza didn't pitch poorly on Monday, but he was hurt deeply by the mistakes he did make, specifically hanging sliders that Torii Hunter and Mike Napoli launched for home runs, during his four-run, seven-hit, 117-pitch, 72/3-inning outing.

"I hung a slider to Torii and I know him really well and I know what he does with those,'' Garza said. "As soon as he hit it, I didn't even look. I just said, Can I get another ball? And Napoli, same thing. It's the big leagues. If you make a mistake, you're lucky if come back.''

Garza didn't allow another hit after the second homer, but by then it was too much.

The Rays didn't have much luck either. In the first inning, leadoff man Erick Aybar's slow roller hugged the first-base line and then kicked off the bag enough to freeze Peña and, with Garza failing to cover, turning into an infield single that led to a run.

And in the eighth, Crawford was running on the pitch when Zobrist grounded a ball up the middle, putting Aybar, the Angels shortstop, in perfect position for an easy double play.

But that's typical for the Rays in Anaheim, where the ballpark is beautiful, the weather great, the scenery pleasant and their experience miserable — 1-14 in Maddon's five seasons, 14-41 overall.

There was some good. Crawford made another amazing fly-through-the-air-with-the-greatest of ease catch, racing to his left at full speed and going airborne to rob Hunter of extra bases, though Aybar did tag up.

Jaso had a good game, getting three hits and throwing out attempted base-stealers to end two innings, but he made a rookie mistakes. There was a catcher's interference and a time out request when Garza was already in his windup, and then the wild pitch at a pivotal time, allowing Morales to move from second to third.

"A little unfortunate the guy could go from second to third there,'' Balfour said. "That made it a little tougher,''

Jaso said the wild pitch, on a 1-and-1 slider that skipped under his glove and then through his legs, shouldn't have happened. "The pitcher is supposed to have confidence he can throw that ball in the dirt if he wants to,'' Jaso said. "I definitely felt it was my fault, and I was to blame for that.

"It went under my glove; my glove should have been down and it should have been blocked, and I just didn't do it. It's my fault.''

Balfour said he felt he had to strike out Rivera, and thought his 1-and-2 slider was going to get the job done. "I felt like I had him,'' Balfour said.

The Rays were playing without centerfielder B.J. Upton, who went back to Tampa for the birth of his first child, leaving them with Sean Rodriguez starting in center and Reid Brignac later making his first professional appearance in the outfield.

Marc Topkin can be reached at topkin@sptimes.com

Angels 5

Rays 4 (11)

Tampa Bay Rays rally, then fall to Angels in 11 innings 05/11/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 11, 2010 9:42am]
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