05/17/08 7:00 PM ET
Miscues prove costly vs. Cards
Rays rally back from early deficit, but fall in extra innings
By Bill Chastain / MLB.com
Yes, Ryan Ludwick's 10th-inning home run off Dan Wheeler gave the Cardinals a 9-8 walk-off win over the Rays on Saturday afternoon, but what the Busch Stadium crowd of 43,907 saw prior to the blast determined the game's outcome long before Ludwick's fateful swing.
Where mistakes are concerned, the Rays cornered the market on Saturday.
"We made up for the mental mistakes we have not been making all in one day," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "That was truly remarkable. They were primarily mental mistakes the whole day. ... I'm not pleased with it -- we've addressed all of them. We can't do that kind of stuff. Obviously, had we not [made the mistakes], we would have won today."
The Rays' loss snapped a two-game win streak and handed the team just its second loss in the past 10 games.
Evan Longoria got picked off of first base to end a first-inning rally and kick off what would become a long afternoon of Rays blunders. Others quickly joined the mistake-fest. Gabe Gross forgot how many outs there were in the second inning and did not score from second base on Akinori Iwamura's single when he should have been running on contact with two outs. Carl Crawford erased Gross' mistake by driving him home, but then Crawford got caught stealing to end the second-inning rally.
B.J. Upton got thrown out trying to steal third for the second out in the fifth, then got caught in a rundown and tagged out to end an eighth-inning rally. Add to that J.P. Howell giving up a home run to Albert Pujols with two outs in the sixth when Pujols was ahead in the count 3-0 -- with an open base -- and an unnamed player missed a signal.
"We struggled today on the basepaths, really sloppy," Crawford said. "[We're] just trying to be too aggressive, that's how we play. But today, it kind of bit us. It just didn't go our way today on the bases."
Added Upton: "Joe preached it to us in Spring Training, the little things are going to win us games and those little things hurt us today. We didn't really run the bases well, and it came back to bite us."
Maddon and his coaches addressed the mistakes during the game individually with the offending players.
Despite the mistakes, the Rays did not quit after the Cardinals took a 7-3 lead in the fifth. Cliff Floyd had an RBI double in the sixth to cut the lead to 7-4 before Howell gave up the home run to Pujols. Carlos Pena, who celebrated his 30th birthday on Saturday, then hit a three-run homer that seemed to catch a little extra push from the wind to make it 8-7 before Longoria's sacrifice fly in the eighth tied the score at 8.
"Of course, I'm not happy with what we did in regard to the mental mistakes, and we've been addressing that all along," Maddon said. "You get to the point where you think they are going away, and they have been. ... Today serves as a reminder that we're not a finished product yet, but I do like the determination. I do like the fight back. Under very difficult circumstances, we kept coming back, and I'm very pleased with our effort."
Ludwick's home run -- his second of the game -- put an end to the Rays' misery when he hit what appeared to be a wind-aided homer into the left-center-field stands on the first pitch he saw from Wheeler. Crawford and Upton tried in vain to rob the blast, but both came up empty. Upton threw a little scare into the Rays when he came down holding his shoulder, but he reported after the game that his shoulder felt fine.
"I missed [with a slider] right down the middle," Wheeler said. "I didn't think he got it, but he's a strong kid. That ball carried pretty well. It's just one of those things. What are you going to do?
"The way we played, came back and put ourselves in a position to win, it was awesome, and it just shows a lot of character from this team. We just couldn't finish it off today."
Crawford said they need to put Saturday's game behind them.
"The positive thing is we fought back," Crawford said. "We stayed in the game. We still had a chance to win. We just didn't do it at the end. We're just going to forget about that game real quick and come back ready to play tomorrow."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.