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Rays blow early lead against Astros, drop back to .500 (w/video)

Rays centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier makes another memorable play, robbing the Astros’ Brian McCann of extra bases in the second inning with a leaping catch at the wall.
Rays centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier makes another memorable play, robbing the Astros’ Brian McCann of extra bases in the second inning with a leaping catch at the wall.
Published Apr. 22, 2017

ST. PETERSBURG — Kevin Kiermaier left Friday's game after five innings with what the team said was not an injury. The official word was he had an illness.

The rest of the Rays didn't look so well, either, including third baseman Evan Longoria, whose bobble of a grounder with the bases loaded in the seventh inning allowed the go-ahead run to score.

"Probably one of my worst days defensively in a while," Longoria said.

After a powerful beginning that included solo home runs in each of the first three innings and a solid effort from starter Alex Cobb, the Rays fell 6-3 to the Astros in front of an announced 17,683 at Tropicana Field.

The loss snapped the Rays' three-game winning streak and dropped them to 9-9. The American League West-leading Astros improved to 12-5.

"We just came off a series where we had a lot of things go our way and we capitalized from it, maybe the opposite today," Rays manager Kevin Cash said.

It's unusual to see Longoria struggle defensively. Rays fans are more used to seeing him turn a popped-up bunt down the third-base line into a double play than bounce a throw past the first baseman or let the ball slip out of his right hand while trying to make a throw in a key moment, but that's what happened.

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Throw in his inability to field a bunt against the shift by Brian McCann in the ninth inning and you have a forgettable night for the Gold Glove-caliber third baseman.

Longoria was charged with one error when he threw Jose Altuve's ground ball past first baseman Logan Morrison to start the fourth. But Cobb, as he did the inning before, picked Altuve off first base.

Longoria's biggest miscue came three innings later when the Astros loaded the bases with no outs against Cobb and the score tied at 3.

Jumbo Dìaz came on and got George Springer to ground to Longoria. But Longoria bobbled the ball as he tried to throw home. Instead of getting the lead runner and keeping the score tied, Longoria had to settle for getting the out at third as the Astros took a 4-3 lead.

"Jumbo came in and made the pitch he needed to make, and I just didn't make the play, and it ended up costing the game, simple as that," Longoria said. "It's just a play that needs to be made, and I take responsibility for it. It is what it is. It (stinks)."

TOPKIN'S TAKEAWAYS: Beat writer Marc Topkin's takeaways from the Rays' loss to the Astros.

The Ray led 3-1 after three innings, but it was all Astros after that, and it began with a third out in the fourth that wasn't made by catcher Derek Norris, who could not pick up Carlos Beltran's foul pop behind home plate until it was too late. His attempt at a diving catch came up empty.

Once again, a Rays opponent took advantage of the second life.

Beltran singled to right to start a run of four consecutive singles against Cobb that led to a pair of runs that tied the score at 3.

"As a whole we didn't play great defense," Longoria said. "We gave them too many outs. That one ended up being the biggest one. They are a good team, and when you give a good team extra outs, they usually make you pay."