ST. PETERSBURG — There was an October feel in Saturday night's second straight pitcher's duel between the Rays and the Rangers, which once again took extra innings to decide.
As manager Joe Maddon has said, there's a "razor-thin line between winning and losing," and that was on full display in the Rays' 4-2, 10-inning loss in front of 18,702 at Tropicana Field.
It was an all-too-familiar feeling for Tampa Bay (76-63), as each of its past 12 losses have come by two runs or fewer, putting them two games behind the Yankees and Orioles in the American League East.
"It's a game of inches," rightfielder Matt Joyce said. "You say it a million times, and it's an old cliche, but there have been a lot of times this year that we're an inch away from winning a lot more ball games."
Despite managing three hits all game, the Rays battled back from two runs down, taking advantage of a couple of Rangers miscues to tie it in the eighth. But they gave it right back in the 10th, when Texas came up with a two-out rally off reliever Kyle Farnsworth.
No. 8 hitter Geovany Soto ripped a double off the wall in left-center, just out of the reach of a leaping B.J. Upton. Rangers 19-year-old rookie shortstop Jurickson Profar then knocked in the winner with a double down the first-base line, which bounced just over the outstretched glove of a diving Carlos Peña. It was the first hit of the series with a runner in scoring position.
"I thought I had it all the way," Peña said. "It took one of those aggressive hops. I was actually surprised when I saw it go over my glove."
The Rays saw another impressive performance by rookie right-hander Chris Archer, taking the place of All-Star lefty David Price who was scratched one start due to shoulder soreness. Archer, in his third big-league start and his first at the Trop, shut down the potent Rangers lineup, allowing two runs (on the 40th homer by Hamilton) and striking out 11 in seven innings.
"That was above and beyond what I expected," Maddon said. "He was outstanding."
The Rays also got some strong defensive play, with second baseman Ryan Roberts thwarting a Rangers rally in the fifth by making a diving stop to start an inning-ending double play. Third baseman Evan Longoria started the eighth with an over-the-shoulder catch near the Rangers bullpen, and Ben Zobrist had a great game at short.
"All outstanding plays," Maddon said.
But with Rangers rookie righty Yu Darvish baffling the Rays once again, they needed a few breaks to tie the score. Darvish, who allowed one earned run over eight innings, helped Tampa Bay out in the sixth by throwing a wild pitch, advancing runners to second and third after Jose Molina fouled off two bunt attempts. Sam Fuld's RBI groundout pulled them within a run.
And with the Rays down to their last out in the eighth, second baseman Ian Kinsler booted Peña's grounder into the shift in shallow right. That allowed pinch-runner Rich Thompson, who had stolen second, to hustle around and score the tying run.
The Rays had one last chance in the 10th, but Peña — with two outs and Upton on second — struck out looking to end the game. Both Peña and Maddon thought the third strike was a ball, and a visibly upset Peña argued vociferously with home-plate umpire Mike Estabrook, sparking a postgame ejection.
Said Peña: "I thought it was a very bad call."
And a very tough loss.
Joe Smith can be reached at email@example.com.