Rays fall after Gomes' big homer
Ninth-inning blast, second of the night, forces extras
ST. PETERSBURG -- For the first 8 1/2 innings or so Saturday night, there wasn't much action. But the Rays made sure fans got their money's worth by packing it in over the final 3 1/2 frames.
There was a blown call. An angry pitcher. An ejection. And a bottom-of-the-ninth, two-run, game-tying homer that made the former three, along with a 4 hour, 38 minute marathon game possible.
Unfortunately for the Rays, however, they were unable to translate all of the late-inning excitement into a win, and fell 12-6 to the Red Sox at Tropicana Field.
"Overall, I thought the pitching hung in there very well," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "We made some mistakes ... that were not counted as errors, but they do matter regarding the result."
It seemed as if it were all over for closer Al Reyes and the Rays in the top of the 11th, when Reyes served up a one-out double to former Rays infielder Julio Lugo. Reyes then walked the ensuing batter, Kevin Youkilis, after a nine-pitch battle resulted in home-plate umpire Mark Wegner ruling Youkilis had indeed checked his swing on the fourth ball, and awarded him first base.
Reyes blew up at the call, tore off his hat and slammed the rosin bag to the dirt. Maddon jogged out to the mound, either to assess how much longer Reyes could go or to calm his veteran closer. On his way back to the dugout after a short meeting, Maddon was ejected by Wegner. He beat a short path to Wegner and went toe-to-toe with him for several moments before trotting down the dugout steps and into the clubhouse.
Replays clearly showed Youkilis swinging through the plate, which would've been a strikeout.
"[Reyes] was livid," Maddon said. "I thought it was a legitimate swing, but those calls are missed at times. It was such a crucial part of the ballgame, and I felt like I had to make a statement on behalf of our group.
"[The confrontation] turned based on what I said, and it was my fault. [Wegner] had every right to kick me out.
Eventually, Reyes would strike out David Ortiz and watch Manny Ramirez line out to third to escape the inning unscathed.
But the 37-year-old Reyes had already extended himself by throwing 44 pitches over his two innings, and let Brian Stokes take over for the 12th.
The first two hitters Stokes faced popped out and singled. He then issued back-to-back walks to load the bases before securing a second out. Then came a walk to Lugo that sailed well wide of the strike zone to force across the game-winner.
Stokes was replaced in favor of Jae Kuk Ryu, who watched as his 2-1 pitch to Youkilis sailed deep into center field, bounced off the bottom of the wall and cleared the bases. Ryu then walked Ortiz and had another two earned runs charged to him when Ramirez's bullet to center field cut sharply away from B.J. Upton and allowed two more to score for the final margin.
"It's a tough loss for us," Rays starting right-hander James Shields said. "We fought hard and we battled, and it's unfortunate we couldn't win."
Shields punched out the first three Red Sox he faced, and it appeared he'd found his rhythm early on, which has pointed to success during many of his outings. Unfortunately for both the Rays and Shields, the second inning wasn't pretty.
"I got away from the game plan," Shields said. "I got away from my mechanics and with this team, you just can't afford do that. You've got to bear down every pitch, every inning."
Shields' only hiccup during those first 1 2/3 frames was a cutter that didn't quite cut and resulted in a one-out double to J.D. Drew in the second. Securing that third out was a tall task, however, and it took a variety of less-than-ideal happenings that resulted in a 2-0 hole before Youkilis swung and missed at strike three to end the inning.
Drew again bested Shields in the third, stroking a 1-1 pitch to shallow center, just deep enough to drive home another run and extend Boston's lead.
Jon Lester looked solid in his second start since returning to the Majors. It took the Rays until the fourth inning to crack the scoreboard, with two singles and a sacrifice fly from Delmon Young.
Carlos Pena extended his hot streak with a sac fly in the sixth to bring the Rays within one. Entering Saturday's game, he led the Rays in homers (24), RBIs (65) slugging percentage (.592), walks (50) and runs scored (57). Jonny Gomes offered his own aid in the seventh with a one-out solo homer to left field, his ninth of the season. By that time, though, Boston had already added two more runs and all the shot did was pull the Rays to back within two.
Josh Paul drew a round of applause a moment later with his first long ball of the year to bring the Rays achingly close to ending their slide. Gomes went on to boost his second homer of the night into the bleachers in left, a ninth-inning two-run smash that sent the game into extras.
Unfortunately for Tampa Bay, it wouldn't get any closer than that, and the Rays left the park Saturday night still in search of the oft-elusive 'W'.
"[The loss] is tough," Shields said. We're going through a lot of struggles right now, and if we would've came out winning right there, it would've boosted us a little bit, but we're not going to back down.
"We're going to fight. That's how our team is. ... No matter how many games we've lost, we're still going to try and get wins."
The sellout crowd of 36,048 was largely pro-Boston and clad in a sea of red. Saturday night marked the eighth time in Rays history they've had a full house, and four of those times have happened this current season. The last time Tampa Bay packed the seats was for a July 17 matchup against the Yankees, which the Rays lost, 6-4.
Dawn Klemish is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.