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Rays blow lead in ninth, lose to Orioles in 11

ST PETERSBURG, FL - SEPTEMBER 7:   Nelson Cruz #23 of the Baltimore Orioles celebrates his two run home run with teammate Steve Pearce #28 during the sixth inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field on September 7, 2014 in St Petersburg, Florida.  (Photo by Scott Iskowitz/Getty Images) 477589509
ST PETERSBURG, FL - SEPTEMBER 7: Nelson Cruz #23 of the Baltimore Orioles celebrates his two run home run with teammate Steve Pearce #28 during the sixth inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field on September 7, 2014 in St Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Scott Iskowitz/Getty Images) 477589509
Published Sep. 8, 2014

ST. PETERSBURG — After the inability to get clutch hits, the biggest deficiency on the Rays has been a lack of reliable depth at the back end of the bullpen.

The two flaws have converged at times this season, and did so again Sunday. Two outs from sweeping the first-place Orioles, the Rays instead were left with another bitter, frustrating defeat, 7-5 in 11 innings.

"We had every reason to win that game, and we did not," manager Joe Maddon said. "Those are the two things that have come back and haunted us. … That's pretty much the story right there."

At least the key parts in an odd 4-hour, 36-minute game that included an inside-the-park home run by David DeJesus on a ball that landed in and was knocked out of leftfielder Alejandro De Aza's glove, an infield fly on a ball that bounced near the plate, a shortage of players by the Rays despite expanded rosters, and an incorrect game-ending argument by Maddon that he apologized for as they dropped to 69-75.

"Kind of weird," first baseman James Loney said.

Three other homers, one bad pitch by Jeremy Hellickson to Nelson Cruz for the first of his two homers and seven RBIs, and some mixed bullpen work got the Rays to the ninth with a 4-2 lead.

But with their only trustworthy late-inning relievers, Jake McGee and Brad Boxberger, unavailable due to working the previous three days, along with Grant Balfour, the Rays turned to Joel Peralta.

That didn't work out. Peralta loaded the bases on three straight singles, then after a strikeout gave up a ground ball laced down the first-base line to Cruz that scored all three runs.

"He's been throwing the ball well again," Maddon said. "When you recount it, that's Baltimore's statement that they're not going to be denied because none of those balls were really well hit against him, but they got the job done."

The Rays came back to tie it at 5. The problem, reflecting a day when they went 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position and left 14 on, was they should have had more after getting their first two on, then to second and third with one out, then the bases loaded and two outs. Not much different from the three times they had the bases loaded earlier and got nothing.

"In those different moments we're just unable to come through," Maddon said.

Cesar Ramos pitched well to get the Rays to the 11th, but even as it became obvious he was tiring, Maddon had no choice but to leave him in. He had only one pitcher (Kirby Yates), he had given up the DH so the pitcher was due to hit fifth in the bottom half, and he couldn't double-switch because shortstop Yunel Escobar was too sick to play and Desmond Jennings' knee too sore.

"We ran out of guys," Maddon said. "He had to pitch through that inning before we could do something."

That didn't work out, either. Ramos issued a one-out walk, then gave up Cruz's second homer on his 49th pitch.

"I just kind of started running out of gas," he said.

The circumstances were different, not all the names the same, but the empty feeling familiar.

"It's very tough," Hellickson said. "It does feel like a lot of our losses came like this. And this is another tough one to swallow."

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