ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays may have let a lead — and their season finale — get away from them in a 10-2 loss to the Yankees on Sunday, but they helped make sure one memorable milestone remained intact.
By holding Yankees 1B Mark Teixeira without a homer for the third straight game, Tampa Bay ensured that injured 1B Carlos Peña would share the American League home run title with him at 39. It's the first time a Ray has led the league in homers.
"This is so cool, when I was a kid I used to imagine that all the time," Peña said. "For it to materialize, it's a thrill. I would be lying if I didn't tell you I was extremely excited it ended up this way. I wish I would have kept on playing — still the question remains to me what it could have been. But I'm also grateful because I thought it was a good season for me."
Peña, who missed the final 25 games after having left hand surgery, said he wasn't paying attention to the race, nor did he watch any of Teixeira's at-bats Sunday, joking, "Maybe that was like my whole strategy." But the All-Star said he was "honored," "extremely happy" and "thrilled" to be at the top.
It is a rare feat, considering the circumstances. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, no player in the live-ball era (since 1920) has led his league in home runs after missing at least 25 games to end the season.
The Rays appeared to want to make sure Peña stayed up there.
Manager Joe Maddon said that in Teixeira's first plate appearance in the sixth inning, "It kind of looked like (Wade) Davis conceded the at-bat to him" and wound up walking him. Later in the inning, the Rays intentionally walked Teixeira to load the bases for Alex Rodriguez, who already had homered. Maddon didn't like the matchup of Teixeira on RHP Andy Sonnanstine, and when asked if he would have walked Teixeira if first base weren't open, Maddon said: "I may have still walked him, absolutely. That was not going to get away from us.
"Really, the way (Peña) was swinging the bat, I can envision easily 45 home runs out of him this season, he was going that well," Maddon said. "I'm just pleased he's able to hang that up on the wall, that title."
SWAN SONG? 2B Akinori Iwamura said he hopes Sunday's game wasn't his last in a Rays uniform. The team holds a $4.85 million option on him for next season. Iwamura, 30, has said he'd have interest in talking with the Rays about a new deal at a lower price.
"Nobody knows about next year, and I'd like to stay here but I have no control over it," Iwamura said through interpreter Bori Uchibori. "This is the last game of the season but at the same time I'm very happy to be back on this team and overcoming those injuries, and I'm happy about that."
GAME DETAILS: The Rays took a 2-0 lead thanks to Evan Longoria, who hit a solo homer and scored on a passed ball, but they unraveled in a 10-run sixth inning that included Rodriguez's AL-record seven RBIs on two homers. Davis, battling a cold, pitched five scoreless innings before running out of gas in the sixth. "I just didn't have it," he said. The attendance was 28,699.
MISCELLANY: SS Jason Bartlett set a club record for batting average in a season at .320, topping Carl Crawford's mark of .315 from 2007. He finishes seventh in the American League.
Joe Smith can be reached at [email protected]