After forcing extra innings, Rays fall

After forcing extra innings, Rays fall

ST. PETERSBURG -- Dan Wheeler personified the spirit now residing in the Rays' clubhouse.

The veteran right-hander had just surrendered a three-run homer in the top of the 10th to erase a come-from-behind effort by the Rays on Monday afternoon, so he wasn't happy. After Wheeler took total blame for the pitch that John Buck hit off the foul pole for the winning blast in a 7-4 Royals win, he didn't lose his cool when a reporter tried to offer an olive branch by noting the Rays had gone 6-1 on the homestand.

"Yeah, 7-0 is better," Wheeler said.

And a crowd of 16,293 at Tropicana Field did go home disappointed on Monday afternoon after Tampa Bay saw its seven-game winning streak snapped. The product on the field has been so different this season that any loss is now a disappointment.

Trailing 3-2 with one out in the ninth, Carlos Pena sent the game into extra innings with his 13th homer of the year off a 1-2 offering by Joakim Soria. But Buck answered in the 10th inning with his blast off Wheeler and Mike Aviles added a solo shot for the four-run cushion. Eric Hinske added a solo home run for the Rays in the bottom of the 10th to equal the final margin.

A lot went wrong for the Rays on Monday, but they still remained in the game until the end.

Among the things that misfired were the bats, which feasted on Royals pitching throughout the first three games of the series before coming up flat and stranding 12 baserunners Monday.

"We had so many opportunities we needed to take advantage of and we didn't," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "We kept battling. We just didn't have the timely hitting."

Carl Crawford, playing out of position in center field, experienced a mental lapse in the third that allowed Mark Teahen to score from first base on a two-out single that put the Royals up, 3-2.

"Part of it was Teahen ran really well," Maddon said. "We needed to be more headsup at that moment."

Crawford took full responsibility for the play.

"I was too lackadaisical," Crawford said. "It was just a bad effort on my part in general. I was doing my normal thing I'd normally be doing in left field. I forgot I was in center. In center you've got to be more aggressive. Something you learn from."

And, there was Wheeler, who immediately got behind the eight ball in the 10th when Evan Longoria threw wild from third base after fielding Billy Butler's grounder, which allowed Butler to reach second. Esteban German was inserted as a pinch-runner and went to third on a groundout before Maddon elected to walk Ross Gload to try and set up an inning-ending double play.

Buck then connected on his fourth home run of the season on a 1-0 pitch.

"That's what happens when you miss your spots," Wheeler said. "Just a matter of missing my spots. ... [Longoria's error] has nothing to do with it. I just need to execute my pitches. I didn't, it cost us the game."

Matt Garza started for the Rays and didn't show up with his good stuff. Still, he gave the team 6 2/3 innings and left the game with the team trailing by just a run and still in the game.

"First couple of innings, I was searching for something I didn't have, I just grinded it out today," Garza said.

Akinori Iwamura scored the Rays' first run in the first inning when Buck overthrew second base trying to throw out Crawford. Crawford went to third on the play and scored on Longoria's RBI single to give the Rays a 2-0 lead.

David DeJesus tripled home two runs in the second to tie the score and Gload singled home Teahen in the third to give the Royals a 3-2 lead.

While the loss stung, the fact the Rays did not take solace in their recent accomplishments indeed gave the feeling there's something special going on for the Rays this season.

"We're getting to the point where we win six of seven on a homestand and we have a bad taste in our mouth," said Maddon, obviously pleased with that sentiment. "You're not going to be perfect. Nobody's perfect in this game."

Bill Chastain is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.