ST. PETERSBURG — The circumstances have been different each time, and occasionally unusual, such as Tuesday when the collapse included a misplay by centerfielder Desmond Jennings, who'd made one error since the start of last season.
But the results too often have been the same, the Rays losing another game they looked to have won, leading by four in the seventh yet losing 6-5 to the Angels.
"To permit that many runs late, we've done that way too many times this year," manager Joe Maddon said. "We've got to stop doing that. That pretty much needs to be the last time we do something like that."
The loss — the Rays' third straight, and to three different teams — dropped them to 74-56 and 2½ games behind the American League East-leading Red Sox.
It was the 15th time they've blown a lead from the seventh inning on, the 12th they've lost when doing so.
"We've lost that game way too many times this year," Maddon said. "We still have a fine record, we're in good shape. But that's the kind of game we have to stop giving away."
The Rays led 5-1 going to the seventh after Roberto Hernandez stepped up when they needed him most — with Jeremy Hellickson sent to the minors and Matt Moore still on the disabled list — and delivered a solid and somewhat encouraging start before a Trop gathering of 12,939. "I thought Roberto did a really nice job actually," Maddon said. Hernandez left after allowing the first two Angels to reach, and Jake McGee walked No. 9 hitter Peter Bourjos then allowed all three runners to score.
Still, the Rays felt good putting a 5-4 lead in closer Fernando Rodney's hands. But Rodney made his mistake, walking No. 8 hitter Grant Green, to start the ninth. Rodney got the ground ball he wanted from the speedy Bourjos, but the Rays got only one out.
Then Jennings lent his hand to the loss. He charged J.B. Shuck's soft liner, but the ball glanced off the tip of glove, putting Angels on third and second, and Erick Aybar doubled them both in.
Jennings didn't have much of an explanation or an excuse.
"I just missed the ball," he said. "I just didn't catch it."
Jennings had 224 outfield chances without an error last season and one error in 272 this season before the ninth Tuesday.
"The last thing you would expect for that to happen," Maddon said.
Having wasted myriad early opportunities (3-for-13 with runners in scoring position, leaving the bases loaded in the second and fourth), the Rays didn't do much against ex-mate Dane De La Rosa in the ninth, who admitted he was fired up to beat them. "(Expletive) yeah, it meant more," he said.
Though the inning and potentially the game would have been different had Jennings made the catch, Rodney can't be absolved of blame, having blown his eighth save, second most in the majors, and third in his past six chances.
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"I continued to make good pitches, but you guys saw what happened," Rodney said. "That's baseball. That happens sometimes."
For the Rays, it has happened way too much.