ARLINGTON, Texas — Turns out, Wade Davis didn't have to be too concerned with the extreme Texas heat. That's because by the fourth inning Friday night, he was out of the game and back in the air-conditioned clubhouse.
The Rays couldn't quite recover from the mess he created in losing 9-6 to the Rangers, though they at least made it interesting. They overcame the pain of seeing a four-run lead turn into a five-run deficit by getting the tying run to the plate twice in the final three innings, with a chance to pull off a third straight comeback win.
"It's obviously disappointing," said Carlos Peña, who made the final out with two on. "But at the same time, we gave ourselves a shot once again, and that's a good sign."
The 92-degree temperature at first pitch made for an uncomfortable night, but Davis' performance made it much more unbearable.
The rookie right-hander's outing was the worst of the season by a Rays starter by two extremes: His 31/3 innings were the fewest in a noninjury situation, and the eight runs he allowed were the most. Davis, who has lasted more than six innings once in his past six starts, also allowed a career-high nine hits as his record dropped to 5-5 and his ERA rose to 5.03.
In apparently not-yet-related news, top prospect Jeremy Hellickson extended his scoreless streak to 21 innings and lowered his ERA to 2.28 (to go along with an 8-2 record) with six shutout innings for Triple-A Durham before being removed from a 0-0 game. Despite a season-high five walks, he threw only 86 pitches.
"Wade had a tough night. He just was not sharp," manager Joe Maddon said. "I thought he started out okay, but again, the command issues got him, fastball command.
"It's something that plagued him in the minor leagues; at the end of last season he actually had very good command. We've just got to get him back to where he was at the end of last year. If you remember, that last month he was pretty much a strike-thrower with all of his pitches — fastball command, breaking ball command, etc. He was able to get in better counts. He's not able to get in the better counts right now."
Davis, though, said it wasn't a matter of command, but location: "I just left everything over the plate, and they took advantage of it and hit some balls hard. I was in the strike zone but just wasn't making quality pitches."
The Rays have been just plain bad at Rangers Ballpark since the start of last season, going 1-6, with their starters allowing 37 earned runs in 311/3 innings for a 10.63 ERA.
Despite the loss, just the Rays' seventh on the road all season and fifth when scoring four or more runs anywhere, they still have the best record in the majors, 36-19. Given the Yankees' loss at Toronto, the Rays also still have a two-game lead in the American League East.
The Rays took a 4-0 lead in the second, but Davis gave two runs right back. He gave back the rest and more in an ugly fourth that, by the time reliever Andy Sonnanstine retired the 11th batter for the third out, turned out to be the biggest inning against the Rays this season: seven runs and seven hits. "Extremely disappointing," Davis said. "Bad on my part, bad all around."
Marc Topkin can be reached at email@example.com.