Tampa Bay Rays
Rays lose 15-inning marathon at Oakland, 4-3
OAKLAND, Calif. - The Tampa Bay Rays and Oakland A's played on and on Monday night. On and on and on until Monday night became Tuesday morning on both coasts. "That's not easy to do," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. It is when strong pitching meets weak offenses, which was clearly the case during the opening game of a three-game series at the Oakland-Alameda County Stadium.The A's pulled it out in 15 innings, winning 4-3 when Jamile Weeks scored Brandon Inge with a bases-loaded sacrifice fly to right field. The ball was caught by center fielder B.J. Upton because right fielder Ben Zobrist was stationed behind second base as the Rays employed five infielders with the hopes of sending the game into the 16th inning. "I can't say that it was a well-played game," Maddon said. "It was well-pitched. Their pitching was good, and so was ours." The A's won for the 19th time in 23 games this month, making this the best July in franchise history. The Rays saw their modest two-game winning streak end and fell 3½ games behind the American League wild card-leading A's and three games behind the Angels, who occupy the second wild card spot. Led by starter David Price and all seven members of the bullpen, the Rays struck out a franchise-record 21 batters. They also walked 10, though three were intentional. In all, 13 pitchers were used. They combined to throw 494 pitches. There were 104 official at-bats – 52 on both sides. Upton, Weeks and Oakland's Josh Reddick each were 0-for-7. Reddick struck out four straight times between the sixth and 11th innings. Rays designated hitter Jeff Keppinger was warming in the bullpen when the A's finally ended the night against reliever Kyle Farnsworth, who was pitching on back-to-back days for the first time this season. The game took 5 hours, 9 minutes and ended at 3:15 a.m. on the East Coast. "It was difficult," Maddon said. "We pitched so well." Price was looking for his major league-leading 15th win and appeared headed that way when Matt Joyce homered in the sixth inning to give the Rays a 3-2 lead. The Rays could have added to that lead in the seventh when Carlos Peña, whose two-run double in the fourth erased an early 2-0 deficit, opened the inning with an infield single. But Peña tried to go to third on Jose Molina's single to right and was easily thrown out by Reddick. Molina then was caught stealing when Sean Rodriguez swung through a pitch on a hit-and-run. Those would be the last hits for the Rays until Ben Zobrist singled to start the 14th inning. The reason the game continued into the early morning was because Price allowed a home run to Brandon Hicks, the A's No. 9 hitter, with two outs in the bottom of the seventh. "They got me the lead like they have all year, and I wasn't able to hang on to it for us," Price said. The A's, who entered the night with a major league-best 11 walk-off wins, were close to getting No. 12 when they loaded the bases in the ninth off Wade Davis and again in the 10th when they loaded the bases off Jake McGee and again in the 11th when they had runners at first and second with two outs against J.P. Howell. They would eventually get that 12th walk-off victory, but it would come much later in the game because Davis, McGee and Howell were able to end each threat with a strikeout for the final out. "I thought when they did not take advantage of their opportunities we would get our chance," Maddon said. But this is a Rays team that managed 11 hits and five runs while winning the final two games against the Angels over the weekend. Opportunities are hard to find. Still, the Rays had chances in the 14th and 15th innings, leaving two runners in each inning. The Rays, whose major league-low team batting average dipped to .230 after mustering eight hits during the game, were 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position and stranded nine runners. The A's, who are a notch above the Rays in batting with a .231 team average, were also 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position but left 16 runners on base. Maddon said he didn't want to use Farnsworth, but Farnsworth, who struck out two in a perfect inning of relief during Sunday's game at Anaheim, told Maddon he was fine. Farnsworth allowed a leadoff single to Inge. After a sacrifice bunt, Farnsworth walked Seth Smith intentionally and Eric Sogard unintentionally. Maddon brought Zobrist in from right field to help guard against a ground ball getting through the infield for the winning hit. Weeks, though, thwarted that plan with a fly ball to right, and Inge easily beat Upton's throw to the plate. When asked if it was a frustrating way to lose, Farnsworth said, "It is. It totally is." The Rays beat the Marlins this season in 15 innings and beat the Mariners on their recent homestand in 14. After both wins, Maddon and his players talked about how important it was to win those games after playing so many innings and how devastating it would have been to lose. Now that they lost a game that went 15 innings, how do they react? "We have James Shields go out there (tonight) and pitch well," Maddon said. "That would be our best medicine."