After the Rays teased a crowd of 10,511 that they indeed could pull it off, former Rays farmhand Josh Hamilton squashed any expectations of the sort with a lead-padding grand slam in a 12-6 Rangers win at Tropicana Field.
"It felt good ... especially in that situation," said Hamilton, whom the Rays selected with the top pick of the 1999 First-Year Player Draft. "This is where I started at, and it's my first home run here."
The Rays took just their second home loss in their last 18 games. The loss also snapped the Rays' four-game winning streak.
Andy Sonnanstine started for the Rays and got into trouble in the first, as Hamilton and Brandon Boggs drove in runs to put the Rangers up 2-0.
Sonnanstine got in trouble again in the second, when the Rangers had runners on second and third with no outs. He struck out Michael Young for the second out before getting Hamilton to hit what appeared to be an inning-ending ground ball to Evan Longoria. The Rays' splendid-fielding third baseman bobbled the ball, and Hamilton beat the throw to first, earning Longoria his third error of the season.
"It was a tough way to get an error," Longoria said. "He gets down the line pretty good, and I thought I did what I could do with the ball."
A run scored on the miscue, and then the floodgates opened. Milton Bradley and David Murphy followed with RBI singles and Boggs doubled home two more to put the Rangers up, 7-0.
The Rays did not cave, nor did Sonnanstine.
Cliff Floyd hit a two-run homer in the second and Eric Hinske added a two-run shot of his own in the fourth to cut the Rangers' lead to 7-4. Sonnanstine managed to get the Rays past the fifth without any further damage.
"My location was missing up the first couple of innings," Sonnanstine said. "After that, I lowered my sights and started to get guys out. My arm's feeling good. It's just a matter of location right now."
J.P. Howell took over for Sonnanstine in the sixth and added two more scoreless innings. Floyd scored in the sixth to bring the score to 7-5, and the Rays looked perched to complete the comeback.
The outlook dimmed when the Rangers pushed the lead to 8-5 on Ian Kinsler's RBI single in the eighth. Later in the inning, Hamilton came up with the bases loaded and rerouted Howell's first pitch into the right-field stands for his 13th home run of the season.
"In the seventh inning, I had a good feeling if we hung around long enough, we were going to give ourselves a chance to win the game," Longoria said. "Unfortunately, Hamilton comes up with the big hit like he's been doing, and he kind of put us away right there."
Rangers manager Ron Washington felt the impact of Hamilton's shot, too.
"It was big," Washington said. "It was bigger than big. It was huge, because we put some distance between those guys. All night long, those guys battled for those at-bats. They just wouldn't give up, and it seemed like when Hamilton hit that grand slam, we had six outs to get from that point on. It felt good."
Rays pitchers allowed 12 runs Tuesday night, matching their season high from May 3 at Boston, and it was the most they've allowed at Tropicana Field since Sept. 25 when they allowed 12 against the Yankees.
"We had a bad night, they had a good night," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "They just beat us tonight. We got off to a bad start, but we did fight. We got it close."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.