OAKLAND, Calif. — The amazing A's have drawn comparisons with the 2008 Rays for their inspired play and unexpected success, and Rays manager Joe Maddon said before Monday's game a telling sign are the "magical" things that seem to happen frequently during such a season.
The Rays saw it for themselves by the end of the long night, as the A's raucously celebrated their major-league leading 12th walkoff win after a 4-3 15-inning victory.
The end came just after 3:15 a.m. Tampa Bay time when Jemile Weeks hit a sacrifice fly to right-center off Kyle Farnsworth, the eighth Rays pitcher, to score Brandon Inge. The rally started when Inge opened the 15th with a single and went to second on a bunt, and Farnsworth walked two — one intentionally, one not — to load the bases. The Rays went to a five-man infield but Weeks' fly ball ended the marathon after 5 hours and 9 minutes.
Farnsworth said it was obviously frustrating: "It is. It totally is. It (stinks).''
"It's tough,'' said Rays starter David Price. "When you play for as long as we did, and we played great defense and we pitched very well, and to not be able to win that that game, that kind of stings a little bit.''
The Rays didn't exactly challenge, going from the seventh to the 14th without a hit. And when they got two to open the 14th, singles by Ben Zobrist and Jeff Keppinger, they didn't do anything with them. Brooks Conrad, pinch-hitting for Matt Joyce against lefty Jerry Blevins, struck out looking, as manager Joe Maddon eschewed the bunt. Ryan Roberts flied to right, with Zobrist moving up to third, and Carlos Pena flied to right for the final out.
They got two on again in the 15th, but B.J. Upton – 0-for-7 on the night – popped out and Zobrist grounded out.
The A's, who have seven walkoff wins in their last 12 home games. had numerous chances. They had the bases loaded in the ninth, but Wade Davis struck out Weeks. They loaded the bases in the 10th, but Jake McGee struck out Kurt Suzuki. (McGee had a particularly tough inning as he took a grounder off his left foot and then - somehow – airmailed what was supposed to be ball four of an intentional walk to the backstop.) They had two on in 11th, but J.P. Howell struck out Josh Reddick.
"They have all the chances and did not score,'' Maddon said. "So you think at some point you're going to find a way to get it done. And it just did not want to work.''
Tampa Bay pitchers struck out a team-record 21 and walked 10, throwing 279 pitches. It was the longest road game in team history; the overall record is 16.
"The bullpen was fabulous once again,'' Maddon said. "We were just unable to get any offense together. ... We just have to hit the ball better. We did not make a lot of hard contact tonight.''
The Rays didn't want to use Farnsworth, Maddon said, but he offered and they decided to give him one inning. Keppinger was warming up and would have pitched the next two, Maddon said, with Roberts after that.
The loss kept the Rays (53-50) from what would have been their first three-game winning streak since June 7-10, when they won four straight. It gave them a 4-3 record thus far on their nine-game cross-country challenge against other wild-card contenders and left them needing to win the next two to take all three series, having won two of three at Baltimore and Anaheim.
The game, played before a gathering of 12,564, was tied at 3 after seven innings.
After setting the A's down in order in the first, Price gave up two runs in the second, ending the Rays' scoreless streak at a team record-tying 24 innings going back to the third on Friday night in Anaheim.
Price didn't allow anything else until the seventh, but it was costly: a two-out homer to No. 9 hitter Brandon Hicks on a 1-and-1 pitch.
"Just very unfortunate,'' Maddon said.
"That's part of it,'' Price said. "I wish I could have that pitch back and throw something different, but that's it.''
Price left after seven with a decent line — three runs allowed on five hits, two walks and 11 strikeouts —- but without a shot at what would have been his major-league leading 15th victory. "They got me the lead like they have all year and I wasn't able to hold on to it,'' Price said.
The Rays were held hitless through the first three innings by A's rookie right-hander A.J. Griffin then rallied for two to tie in the fourth, Zobrist getting them started with a single up the middle and Peña delivering the big hit. Zobrist was replaced by Keppinger on first after a fielder's choice grounder, Joyce walked then Peña laced a drive to right-center for a two-run double.
The Rays, after hitting a couple balls to the wall off Griffin, took the lead in the sixth when Joyce hit one out to right, his first homer since June 10 and 12th overall.
They had a chance for more in the seventh but doomed themselves in a perplexing sequence after Peña led off with a single. It seemed like an obvious bunt situation for Jose Molina, but the Rays let him swing, and he made that work out with a single. But Peña tried what Maddon said was a "a good job" that turned out to be a bad decision trying to get to third and was thrown out by rightfielder Josh Reddick. Worse, two pitches later Molina took off for second and, well after Sean Rodriguez swung and missed on what was supposed to be a hit and run, was easily thrown out. Rodriguez then flied out.
As frustrating as the loss was, Maddon said it can be forgotten on Tuesday: "You have James Shields go out and pitch well - that would be our best medicine.''
Marc Topkin can be reached at email@example.com.