ST. PETERSBURG — One-run losses have doomed the Rays this season, and such a defeat with the final out on a play at the plate, like Sunday's 5-4 loss to Seattle, is only that much more frustrating.
"Everything's magnified, and that's the way the game ended, so it's super-magnified," said Rays third-base coach Matt Quatraro, who waved Johnny Field home to try to score the tying run on a single, only to see him thrown out at the plate by several steps. "I take responsibility for that call. It didn't end up being the right one. … That was completely my decision."
Down 5-4 with two outs in the ninth, the Rays had Field at first when Carlos Gomez hit a blooper to shallow right that dropped in front of the Mariners' Mitch Haniger. Quatraro saw Haniger slide, then miss picking the ball up twice, first with his bare hand, then with his glove. As Field raced home, slightly hesitating before rounding third, Haniger picked up the ball and threw a one-hop strike to catcher Mike Zunino, who applied the easy tag as Field pulled up.
"In that situation, we're just looking to be aggressive," Field said. "It's kind of unfortunate. I was just listening to my third-base coach. I heard him say 'go,' so I went. It's a tough play. Obviously, looking back, it seems a little aggressive now. He put the throw right on the base. If it trickled off a couple more feet or whatever, we're not having this conversation."
The Rays (29-35) have lost nine of 10 games, five by one run against the Mariners, giving them a majors-high 17 one-run losses this season. Tampa Bay had gotten to Seattle starter James Paxton, who hasn't taken a loss in 13 straight starts, for a 3-1 lead in the fifth, but that got away on a pair of two-run homers.
Rays starter Nathan Eovaldi pitched into the sixth, but he gave up a tying two-run homer to the former Gator Zunino on his 102nd and final pitch in the inning. Seattle (41-24) took the lead in the seventh when Rays reliever Jose Alvarado threw seven straight pitches to open the inning, then followed his first strike with another that Kyle Seager put over the wall in rightfield for a 5-3 lead.
Tampa Bay rallied for a run in the eighth off former Rays closer Alex Colome and had the tying run at third, but rookie Jake Bauers grounded out to end the inning. The Rays got even closer in the ninth, but manager Kevin Cash said he wished Field had been held up at third, giving on-deck hitter Joey Wendle a chance to win the game with his bat.
"It was overaggressive," Cash said, "but saying that, we have a lot of guys that are trying to do a lot right now to impact us in a positive way. … It was just one of those maybe a tick overaggressive that you would probably, with Joey coming up, maybe stay put and see if he could put a good swing on something."
The Rays got a solo home run from C.J. Cron and an RBI double from Bauers for a 3-1 lead in the fourth, but they also ran into another out in scoring position. Bauers, who was on second, was thrown out at third on a one-out ground ball to short. Cash used that play to point out an ongoing problem on the basepaths.
"I wish I could chalk it up to youth, but our baserunning, we've talked about it enough, hasn't been ideal," he said. "It's unfortunate when it sticks and hits you to impact the outcome of the game right there. Youth doesn't cut it. We have to make better decisions."
The Rays were close enough that Cash took reliever Ryne Stanek, due to "open" Monday night's game against Toronto, and used him for a scoreless ninth. Rookie left-hander Ryan Yarbrough, who has lasted at least five innings in his past three relief appearances, will now get a traditional start, having thrown five shutout innings in relief in a victory against Toronto on May 4.
Tampa Bay's injury concerns increased in the first inning as shortstop Daniel Robertson left the game with tightness in his left hamstring. He said the move was preventative and was hopeful he would be day-to-day, but it could prompt the Rays to recall top prospect Willie Adames from Triple-A Durham.
Contact Greg Auman at email@example.com and (813) 310-2690. Follow @gregauman.