For the past month and a half, the Rays' bullpen has been lights-out, seemingly finding a nice harmony amid all of its juggling components. Runs weren't scoring and rallies ended. On Saturday night -- fittingly wearing the uniforms of the 1998 Devil Rays -- the 'pen could not shut down the A's.
The end result came wrapped in a 7-2 defeat in front of a crowd of 33,273 at Tropicana Field.
"It just got away from us, it shouldn't get away from us, but it did," said Rays manager Joe Maddon, who was ejected in the ninth inning after arguing a catcher's balk on Michel Hernandez. "They beat us. They beat us up. We did not play well."
By losing on Saturday, the Rays saw their four-game winning streak snapped, as well as their nine-game winning streak at home. In addition, the Rays' "Turn Back the Clock" promotion came on a "Summer Concert Series" night that featured the Southern California surf-garage band Smash Mouth. Since the concerts began in 2008, the Rays had accrued an 11-0 record on concert nights. That streak, too, came to an end.
Matt Garza started for the Rays and appeared to have the game in the palm of his hand. The 25-year-old right-hander looked dominant while mowing down the A's through the first six innings. He did not allow a run while striking out seven and took a 2-0 lead into the seventh. But the bottom fell out after Garza retired Kurt Suzuki on flyout to start the seventh.
Bobby Crosby singled up the middle to start an Oakland uprising. Crosby had entered the game in the bottom of the fifth to take Jason Giambi's place at first base after Giambi suffered a right elbow contusion. Garza then faced Rajai Davis, who took Ryan Sweeney's place in right field in the third after Sweeney did not hustle on a popout to shortstop in the second. Davis responded with his second home run of the year to tie the game at 2.
"I made one mistake tonight, and Davis made me pay for it," Garza said. "I got beat with my second-best pitch and that was it. ... It was a two-seam [fastball] down. I was trying to induce a ground ball and he had a two-run [homer]. What are you going to do?"
Garza said he was not familiar with Davis, who also hit a single off him in his previous at-bat in the fourth.
"First at-bat, I went in, then I went away, and he poked it into right field," Garza said. "Second at-bat, I'm like, I'm not going to get beat away, and I want a double play with Crosby on first. I went down and in, usually [it] will get me a ground ball, and he hit it seven rows into [the left-field grandstands]."
Davis was thankful for his opportunity to play.
"It's a blessing, really -- to be able to get in there and help the team win and produce right away," Davis said.
Mark Ellis followed with a single to chase Garza in favor of Randy Choate, who would face the left-handed-hitting Adam Kennedy.
Since the Rays selected Choate's contract from Triple-A Durham on May 25, the veteran southpaw had retired 26 of the 31 left-handed hitters he'd faced while pitching to a 1.23 ERA.
Kennedy spent Spring Training with the Rays before starting the season at Durham, where Choate and he were teammates before Kennedy got traded to Oakland. Kennedy turned on Choate's first offering and deposited the baseball into the right-field stands to give the A's a 4-2 lead.
"I threw him a fastball," Choate said. "It was supposed to be down and away. It ran into the one spot you don't want to throw [Kennedy]. We played in Durham, so I watched him quite a few times, and I know. It was basically supposed to be a two-seamer down and away, and it just ran from away to right in the exact spot that's perfect for him to hit, right above the knees on the inner half. And he just jumped me on the first pitch and took me deep."
Chad Bradford, Grant Balfour, Dan Wheeler and Lance Cormier followed Choate and, uncharacteristically, allowed five additional runs to score, and the game got away from the Rays.
"We have been on such a good roll for the last two months, last month and a half," Choate said. "So when you have a bad game, you hope you can limit it to one game. Nobody's going to be perfect. No bullpen's going to be perfect. It just stinks when it happens.
"Hopefully when it rains, it pours, and you limit it to one game and we come out tomorrow and do our job and do what we've been doing, and hopefully it's just a one-day thing."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.