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Tampa Bay Rays' season ends with 5-1 loss to Texas Rangers in AL division series Game 5

ST. PETERSBURG

There was so much that went right for the Rays during the season, as they collected an American League-high 96 wins, an East Division championship and an expected championship series battle with the Yankees on their way back to the World Series. And so much that went wrong as it ended Tuesday night.

The 5-1 loss to the Rangers was defined by their own mistakes, primarily the result of a series of uncharacteristic defensive miscues, plus their typical offensive impotency and inefficiency, with David Price being outpitched by Cliff Lee.

But the suddenness and the sullenness of their first-round ouster was much more difficult to describe.

"Nobody in here thought we'd be out this early," Carl Crawford said. "So it's very disappointing to come up short like that."

"You can't put the feeling into words," reliever Randy Choate said.

The end of the season was bad enough, as the Rays stood in the dugout watching the Rangers celebrate the right to play the Yankees team they had beat out for the division title for the right to go the World Series.

But it could also be the end of the Rays' run of success that led to two division titles in the past three years. The future is, in the most positive terms, uncertain as they face the loss of Crawford, closer Rafael Soriano and a number of others via free agency along with a significant reduction in payroll.

"A lot of guys aren't going to be here next year, so we wanted to do it together," shortstop Jason Bartlett said. "A lot of guys don't know what the future holds. It's going to be interesting this off-season.

"To go out like this is not a good way."

Principal owner Stuart Sternberg stood in the middle of the clubhouse, pushing aside specifics about the future and focusing instead on the disappointment of the present.

He said his pain was numbed somewhat given the path the Rays took to get to the fifth and final game, having lost the first two at home, then resurrecting themselves in Texas to bring the series back to the Trop. But it was obvious it still hurt.

"You feel like you let down a half a million fans, but it's better it happens this way than it's happened in past years, I guess," Sternberg said. "You win the American League East and the expectation is that you're going to play a lot of baseball. We certainly felt that way; so did the other teams in the playoffs."

The Rays very well may have had they only played their game.

But Tuesday, before a roaring Tropicana Field crowd of 41,845, they did anything but.

Price wasn't as sharp as they needed him to be, allowing eight hits and three runs over six innings, and admitting it was "very disappointing." They wasted the early opportunities they had against Lee, most dramatically in the third when with men on second and third and one out Crawford tapped back to the mound and Evan Longoria grounded out.

And they were a mess in the field, with a series of inexplicable — and unexplainable — defensive breakdowns contributing to the first three Texas runs.

"Spring training plays,'' manager Joe Maddon said.

"Mental lapses,'' Longoria said.

Price and catcher Kelly Shoppach were the prime culprits. Twice runs scored when Price lost track of runners breaking for home as he made plays at first — the first two times in franchise history runners scored from second on infield outs, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The third came when Shoppach made a horribly errant throw on a steal of third.

"Those are things you do on the very first day of camp,'' Maddon said. "They beat us up with some (Baseball) 101 plays basically, just the covering of first and having to look at the plate, whether on a led ball of a double-play situation.

"To their credit, the runners kept going and that was big. The error is going to happen, but the other stuff we have to be mentally in tune. We have to be more aware the runner on second base may score.

"They beat us with our own stick. They played our game tonight and they beat us.''

The first mistake came in the first as Elvis Andrus, having singled and stolen second, kept running and scored from second on a groundout as Price held the ball after taking the flip from Carlos Peña.

Price made a similar mistake in the sixth, when he was late to cover first on the back end of a double play then threw home late, and Shoppach was too far in front of the plate to make a tag.

The breakdown started with Price both times and — in a twist for the Trop — the crowd noise was also a factor. "We run through that play a thousand times starting from spring training,'' Longoria said. "An environment like tonight, it's loud. If you have a slip of the mind for any quick second stuff happens quickly.''

Quickly enough to end a season of significant investment and grand expectations.

Marc Topkin can be reached at topkin@sptimes.com.

Perfect

Cliff Lee tied Lefty Gomez for the third-most consecutive postseason decisions won as a starter to begin a career:

Player Wins Years

Orlando 8 1998-00

Hernandez

Orel 7 1985-95

Hershiser

Cliff Lee 6 2009-10*

Lefty 6 1932-38

Gomez

* - Active

Tampa Bay Rays' season ends with 5-1 loss to Texas Rangers in AL division series Game 5 10/12/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 13, 2010 8:19am]

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