ST. PETERSBURG – Maybe if Jamey Wright had stepped off the rubber just once in the 11th inning with Alfonso Soriano on second base, things would have turned out differently Sunday for the Tampa Bay Rays.
Or if Yunel Escobar crept over to second base to keep Soriano a little closer to the bag.
Or if James Loney didn't hit into an inning-ending double play with the bases loaded in the first.
Or if the Rays didn't ground into three more double plays.
The Rays' 3-2, 11-inning loss to the Yankees before 34,078, the third sellout this season at the Trop, had as much to do with what the Yankees did right as what the Rays did wrong.
“It was a well-pitched game. It was a good baseball game overall,” Evan Longoria said. “It's just unfortunate that one mental mistake kind of cost us that game.”
The Rays allowed the go-ahead run to easily steal third in the 11th inning when no one checked on Soriano.
“You have to be aware that play is there for them,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “To get the runner to third base with one out presents a lot of issues for us. We just can't permit that to happen.”
All it took was a fly ball from Curtis Granderson to score Soriano and deny the Rays a chance at a three-game sweep.
The double plays hurt, especially the one in the first when the Rays had Yankees starter Ivan Nova on the ropes.
The Rays had two on and nobody out in the first when Longoria singled home David DeJesus to open the scoring. Matt Joyce hit into a fielder's choice, but Wil Myers drew a walk to load the bases.
Up came Loney, and he hit a grounder to Yankees third baseman Mark Reynolds, who started a 5-2-3 double play.
“I think right there if we could have gotten a couple of more runs out of that inning, it could have been a different game,” Maddon said.
Robinson Cano tied it with an opposite-field home run off Rays starter Alex Cobb in the third inning, then gave the Yankees the lead when he doubled home Ichiro Suzuki in the sixth.
Longoria made it 2-2 with a sixth-inning homer, his 28th of the season and his third in three games.
Both bullpens took over from there and the game headed into extra innings.
Wright came on in the 10th and got out of a little jam when he caught a line drive by Suzuki and doubled Alex Rodriguez off second base. Rodriguez had drawn a walk as a pinch hitter and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt.
“I got lucky,” Wright said. “I didn't get so lucky the next inning.”
Soriano doubled with one out. The Rays shifted the infield to the right side with Granderson up hoping for a ground ball. That left Longoria playing off third base, and Escobar playing on the second base side of the bag.
Wright looked back twice before throwing home, and when he made his move to the plate, Soriano broke for third. He stole the base with ease.
“I was prepared for it and I think we just need to do a little better job of being on the same page, both pitcher and middle infielder, whoever it is,” Longoria said. “Although Soriano is not a burner, you have to assume everyone out there is a threat, so we'll learn from our mistake. Ultimately, it ended up costing us the game.”
Soriano said he was going to run on the second pitch but decided to go on the first because Wright looked back twice.
“You're not going to look three times to second, so I said now is a good chance,” Soriano said.
Wright said he should have stepped off the rubber.
“I looked back there and nobody was close,” Wright said of Escobar. “I didn't even think to. I guess it didn't even cross my mind at that point that he was going to steal. I should have done a side move or whatever. Pop-up, Mariano, game over.”
Mariano is Mariano Rivera, baseball's all-time saves leader who needed just six pitches to retire the Rays in the bottom of the 11th.
“We had limited opportunities, but we were right there, and one hit away from sweeping,” Longoria said. “And that may be the difference between winning a division or winning a wild card is picking up games like this.”