Manager Joe Maddon predicted Sunday's game would be a "marquee matchup" on the mound, and it certainly was.
Rays right-hander Alex Cobb matched Rangers ace Yu Darvish, each throwing seven scoreless innings. Cobb cruised, allowing just three hits. Darvish battled out of jams.
"Both guys were outstanding," Maddon said.
But Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus snapped the stalemate with two outs in the eighth, belting a two-run homer off setup man Joel Peralta to hand the Rays a 3-0 loss in front of 22,569 at Tropicana Field.
Peralta said he wanted to throw the full-count fastball down, but it was up and in, eventually landing 376 feet away in the leftfield seats.
"You make a mistake, you pay for it," he said.
Peralta's first mistake might have come the batter before. The former infielder instinctively leaped to reach for a Shin-Soo Choo chopper up the middle. Peralta slowed it down enough that shortstop Yunel Escobar couldn't make the play.
"Just reaction," Peralta said. "If I would have let it go, (Escobar) probably would have made that out easy."
But Peralta wasn't entirely to blame for this loss. Tampa Bay went 0-for-11 with runners in scoring position in getting shut out for the second time in its first seven games. But as the Rays headed to Kansas City to start a nine-game, 10-day road trip tonight, they said they feel good where they are (4-3) after seven games.
"I have nothing to complain about," Maddon said. "I love the way we're playing. If we keep playing like this, good things will happen."
Cobb was motivated after what he labeled a "pretty terrible" and "awful" season debut Tuesday (four runs over five innings in a loss to the Blue Jays). He bounced back in a big way Sunday with all three of his pitches working while clicking with catcher Ryan Hanigan. Problem was, Darvish gave him little margin for error.
"I was just going out there and realizing that I can't give up a run pretty much," Cobb said. "Unfortunately for us, (Darvish) was really on."
Darvish struck out four of the first eight hitters he faced, becoming the fastest pitcher ever to 500 strikeouts (401-2/3 innings). But the Rays made him squirm, scattering seven hits and putting the leadoff batter on in four of seven innings. The Rays had runners on second and third with one out in the fifth, and a runner on second with no outs in the sixth and seventh. But Maddon said, "We just did not get the knock when we needed it.
Wil Myers went 0-for-4 and stranded four, and Matt Joyce went 0-for-4 and stranded five, including two in the eighth.
"Didn't get the job done," Myers said. "Just a tough day."
In the ninth, third baseman Evan Longoria made the Rays' first error of the season, leading to a run. Before Andrus' homer off Peralta, the bullpen had a 1.00 ERA. And the offense, which is 1-for-28 with runners in scoring position in the three losses, is 15-for-49 in the four wins.
"I like where we're at," Longoria said. "This is a nice little road trip to really tell us where we are."
Joe Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.