Offense sees spark, but Rays take loss
Wild game against visiting Mariners defines home opener
ST. PETERSBURG -- The bizarre christened the Rays' 2008 home opener in front of a sellout crowd of 36,048 Tuesday night at Tropicana Field.
"You saw some things today that you don't normally see," said B.J. Upton, who found himself right in the middle of the madness that ended in a 6-5 loss to the Mariners.
Take the fifth inning. Upton stood on third and Jonny Gomes on first with one out when Gomes took off for second and slid in safely while Upton tore for home and also slid in safely with his second career steal of home to give the Rays a 5-4 lead.
Despite the fifth-inning onslaught against Mariners' starter Erik Bedard -- who needed 35 pitches in the inning -- the always tough left-hander managed to remain in the game.
"I have no idea [how he got out of the fifth inning]," said Bedard, who picked up his first win of the season.
In the top of the sixth, the Mariners had runners on first and third with one out when Adrian Beltre popped out to Rays catcher Shawn Riggans in foul territory behind home plate. Jose Lopez tagged at first and went to second on the play to put runners in scoring position with the Rays clinging to a one-run lead.
Riggans "thought he called timeout," Maddon said. "That's a good baserunning play by them."
Maddon said either the second baseman Akinori Iwamura or shortstop Jason Bartlett should have moved to the mound to take a throw from Riggans and freeze the runner.
"You can't call timeout if the runner's actually moving," Maddon said. "The umpires did the right thing by not permitting time out. There was nothing to argue right there, but I did want to appeal it. Once I found out specifically what [home-plate umpire] Marvin [Hudson] thought, I wanted to appeal to see if the other umpires saw what he saw."
They did, and the Mariners had two runners in scoring position. Gary Glover intentionally walked Raul Ibanez, then Richie Sexson singled to make the final margin at 6-5 -- which might not have been the final margin had a call not gone against the Rays in the seventh.
Once again, the action involved Upton, who laced a shot down the right field line. Upon leaving the batter's box, Upton ran out of his right shoe as he began his jaunt around the bases.
"Right out of the box, my shoe came off -- weird," Upton said.
When the ball took an odd carom off the wall Upton rounded second and headed for third, where he slid and appeared to be safe, but instead was called out by third-base umpire Hunter Wendelstedt.
"I hit all bag [and not Beltre's leg blocking the base], I was popping up," Upton said. "I thought I got under [the tag], but I guess not."
Upton offered a brief, yet animated, argument before heading back to the Rays' dugout. Upton headed one way while Maddon headed the other to address Wendelstedt resulting in Maddon being ejected from the game.
"It's a bang-bang play," Maddon said. "And I just let Hunter know I thought he was safe and he thought he was out. And then we just kept going on, just one of those nice umpire-manager exchanges.
"I just thought he was safe based on what I saw. I thought he tagged him high. It's a big moment, if he's safe at third with one out there, with five and six coming up, it's an entirely different ballgame, obviously. Runs were hard to come by tonight. I did what I thought I had to do."
Despite dropping the home opener, in addition to losing starting pitcher Matt Garza to the disabled list when he had to leave the game in the third with a radial nerve irritation in his right arm, Maddon managed to find a silver lining in the loss.
"We battled very tough against Bedard and I was very pleased with our team's effort," Maddon said. "It was a great effort today."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.