ST. PETERSBURG — The ninth-inning error by Desmond Jennings Tuesday night, that was new. Only his second miscue since the start of last season. But the runners left in scoring position, the walks to the No. 8 and No. 9 hitters that led to runs, the late-inning lead that evaporated? “That game right there we've lost way too many times this year,” Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon said after the Angels scored twice in the ninth inning to beat the Rays 6-5 in front of 12,939 at Tropicana Field. It was 15th time this season the Rays lost a lead in the seventh inning or later and the 12th time they've lost during such occasions.
Jennings' error was a key play, as closer Fernando Rodney allowed a two-run double by Eric Aybar that capped the Angels' comeback. They had trailed 5-1 after six innings. “The uncharacteristic error by Desmond, that gives them more life, makes Aybar's at-bat bigger, puts more pressure on the pitch,” Maddon said. “There's a lot of things that change when the play's not made. It's something Desmond does all the time. It just so happens (Tuesday) he did not. “That's the freaky part of this game, that's what makes this game so interesting. It's about how we show up (tonight) that matters.” It was the third straight loss for the Rays and dropped them to 2 1/2 games behind the division-leading Red Sox. For six innings it appeared the Angels had little chance of a wild ninth-inning comeback. Roberto Hernandez allowed seven hits, but the only one that hurt was a long home run by Mike Trout in the fourth inning that tied the score at 1-1. “Hernandez had good stuff,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “Good sinker, change in speeds.” A season-high three RBI by Jose Molina and a two-out, two-run bases-loaded single by James Loney in the sixth inning gave Hernandez a four-run cushion. But the Angels quickly made it 5-4 in the seventh with a rally that began when Hernandez allowed two singles - the second a bunt by Grant Green that hugged the third base line and stayed fair. Jake McGee came on and walked the first batter he faced - No. 9 hitter Peter Bourjos. A grounder to first base scored one run and a single by Aybar scored two more. “We still should be able to get through the game and win in spite of all that,” Maddon said. “We've been in this situation several times this year. The biggest thing is how you play the next day.” It was a one-run game in the ninth when Rodney entered and walked the first batter he faced - Green, the No. 8 hitter. “We walked the No. 8 hitter and No. 9 hitter in situations that hurt,” Maddon said. Bourgos forced Green at second and stole second. J.B. Shock hit a sinking line drive to Jennings in straightaway center field and Jennings, charging the ball, dropped it after it hit off the webbing of his glove. “I just missed it,” Jennings said. “Just didn't catch it.” Jennings entered the game with a .996 fielding percentage, tops in the American League among center fielders. Aybar followed with what turned out to be the game-winning hit. “Maybe that's going to be the key to the game,” Rodney said of the error. “You know, it's baseball. You can't guarantee he's going to catch the ball.” The Rays were 3-for-13 with runners in scoring position. They left 12 runners on base. “I'm never comfortable with that when you have all those opportunities to score a run and you let the other team up,” Maddon said. “To permit that many runs late, we've done that way too many times this year. We've got to stop doing that. “That pretty much needs to be the last time we do something like that.” Noteworthy The Rays announced LHP Matt Moore (sore left elbow) will pitch Thursday for Triple-A Durham at Gwinnett. They also announced RHP Jake Odorizzi will be recalled and start Thursday afternoon against the Angels. That will push everyone in the rotation back one day. firstname.lastname@example.org (813) 259-7227 Twitter: @RMooneyTBO