WASHINGTON — Philadelphia doesn't have many kind memories for the Rays, not the way the 2008 World Series turned out. But you've got to believe they woke up happy to be there this morning after a miserable stay in steamy Washington.
Thursday's 5-2 loss was the Rays' second in three nights to the NL East-leading Nationals, featuring a series of mistakes — physical, mental and strategic — and the twist of Joel Peralta, already the focus of attention after being caught with pine tar in his glove and suspended for eight games, at the center of the game's key moment.
"Things just really, really didn't go our way this series," said centerfielder B.J. Upton, who also played a featured role in their flawed production.
The Rays (38-31, and in third place in the AL East) boarded a train for Philly once again wondering how they continue to play so poorly at times.
"The mental mistakes are the part of the game that really are devastating actually," manager Joe Maddon said. "Today we were just chock full of them."
Upton made arguably the most damaging, running a long way in to catch Michael Morse's shallow fly for the second out of the third but then taking several steps before making a weak throw to the plate. That allowed Danny Espinosa to score and the inning to continue, and that hurt, too, as Sarasota's Ian Desmond followed with an RBI single as the Nationals took a 2-1 lead.
"That's just bad court awareness by me," Upton said. "It still would have been a tough play, but I've got to get the ball out of my hand. Just a mental lapse, bottom line."
The Rays were only in that position because of another lapse, as rookie lefty Matt Moore, who wasn't nearly as sharp over his five-inning outing as in his three previous starts, walked the first two batters of the third inning, both of whom scored.
"It felt like it wouldn't have happened if I had been attacking those guys a little more earlier in the count," he said.
There was a third, and even more glaring gaffe that inning, though it didn't lead to anything, as Desmond broke for second as first baseman Carlos Peña held the ball in the infield.
Despite the defensive shortcomings and a bench so thin that after using Elliot Johnson and Will Rhymes (who both struck out) as pinch-hitters in key situations, Maddon was contemplating letting reliever Wade Davis hit, the Rays managed to tie it in the sixth.
That was when Maddon turned to Peralta, who said earlier in the day that one of the biggest benefits of appealing his suspension, and thus putting it on hold, was the opportunity to pitch one more time against the Nationals, his former team that turned him in to the umpires.
That didn't turn out too well, as he allowed a two-out double to No. 8 hitter Jesus Flores then, after intentionally walking pinch-hitter Adam LaRoche, another double to Espinosa, which gave the Nationals a 4-2 lead they wouldn't relinquish.
Maddon said he "felt really good" about Peralta in that situation, but "it just didn't want to work out."
Peralta declined to speak to the media after the game. There probably wasn't much he could say.