BOSTON — In a season when the Rays don't know who will be their starting pitcher two days out of five, when they are figuring out their lineup daily, and when they will be constantly churning their roster, Thursday left them doubting one thing they thought they could be sure of.
Hand Alex Colome the ball with a lead in the ninth inning and plan on shaking hands a few minutes later.
Except this time they were shaking their heads as Colome lost a two-run lead and the Rays lost a sixth straight game, 3-2 to the Red Sox in 12 innings.
"A tough one right there,'' third baseman Matt Duffy said.
It wasn't all on Colome.
Rookies Andrew Kittredge and Ryan Yarbrough allowed two hits around an unintentional walk, the latter of which scored the winning run. The Rays were 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position, including C.J. Cron striking out with the bases loaded to end the 10th and Kevin Kiermaier, off to a miserable 2-for-28 start, whiffing with the go-ahead run on third in the 12th. Leftfielder Mallex Smith came up just short of making a catch that could have won the game during the ninth.
But still, Colome is one of their rocks.
Surprised not to be traded after leading the majors with 47 saves (in 53 chances) last year and getting a hefty 10-fold arbitration raise to $5.3 million, Colome is literally the one guy in the bullpen the Rays can safely know what to expect from. Jose Alvarado and Chaz Roe are unproven, Sergio Romo inconsistent, Matt Andriese learning a new role, and the rest are newbies.
"He's so good," Duffy said. "You love your chances there."
Colome opened the ninth single, walk, RBI single. After a double play, he allowed a Xander Bogaerts double off the leftfield wall that Smith didn't catch as the tying run scored. Then, after a walk and an infield hit to load the bases, the game nearly ended on a grounder in which second baseman Daniel Robertson made a trickier-than-necessary play to get the out at first, and that needed to withstand a 1:44 replay review.
The struggle for Colome was real.
"Pretty unusual,'' manager Kevin Cash said. "It's going to happen, no doubt. All the best ones do. I think the most uncharacteristic thing about the whole inning was the walk. Leadoff single and then walk, you just never see him do that. But ultimately he comes back and gets the double-play ball, and then Bogaerts gets a pitch he can handle.''
For the Rays, it had to be just a crushing way to go.
"I was around enough (last season) to know when (Colome) came in with a lead in the ninth that it was game over,'' Robertson said. "It's baseball, man. We're all human. (The Red Sox) put some good (at-bats) against him, we turned a good double play, it just didn't work out this time. I know him, and I know he'll bounce back, no doubt.''
One thing that probably could be an excuse: Colome hadn't pitched in a week, since closing out the opening-day win at home.
One thing that probably can't be excused: Colome left the clubhouse without talking to reporters to explain what happened.
The Rays looked to be in good position to spoil the Fenway festivities for the Sox's home opener on a clear, cold afternoon.
They got the kind of strong start they had been lacking: rookie Yonny Chirinos stepping in on their second planned bullpen day and working five scoreless innings.
They got the kind of clutch hit they had been missing: Duffy, after failing twice previously, blasting a two-run homer in the eighth.
And they got the kind of break they had grown not to get: the replay call that could have instead given the Red Sox an after-the-fact win.
But the margin for error is going to be tiny this season. And Colome giving the Red Sox another chance proved to doom the Rays, and the end came in the 12th.
Kittredge allowed a leadoff double to Jackie Bradley, who moved to third on a bunt. Yarbrough came in to face Andrew Benintendi — lefty on lefty — lost a tough battle with a full-count walk and gave up the winner to Hanley Ramirez.
At 1-6, the Rays are already fading fast.
"Good teams stop the bleeding, and that's kind of what we have to do here,'' Duffy said. "We have to do it pretty quick.''.
Marc Topkin can be reached at email@example.com. Follow @TBTimes_Rays.