ARLINGTON, Texas — The mistakes the Rays made Wednesday began stacking up early, beginning with the decision to not start or make extended use of Austin Pruitt, who was coming off a pair of solid outings.
They allowed seven runs by three pitchers in a 62-pitch first inning that took a ridiculous 55 minutes to complete.
They made four outs getting picked off bases, including one by Johnny Davis, the speedster they’d just brought up to help boost their running game.
And after they, somehow, overcame all that to take a lead into the seventh, their most dependable, and pretty much untouchable, reliever, Nick Anderson, gave up a three-run homer that proved the difference.
The result was a frustrating 10-9 loss to the Rangers, halting the Rays’ season-high matching six-game winning streak and 11 of 12 run.
Worse, slicing their lead in the AL wild card race, as both Oakland and Cleveland won. That leaves the Rays 87-60 and with a half-game lead on the A’s for the top spot, and the Indians just another half back, with 15 games to play.
The decisive runs came on Rougned Odor’s homer off Anderson, who had faced 50 batters over 15 games since coming over July 31 from the Marlins and allowed only six to reach base and one to score, striking out 30.
Taking over after Colin Poche allowed two Rangers to reach after getting two outs, Anderson got ahead 1-and-2. But Odor fouled off three of the next four pitches, and then drove a misplaced 98 mph fastball over the rightfield wall.
"I just didn’t execute a pitch right there; he’d seen too many fastballs,'' Anderson said. "The team did a helluva job fighting back today so obviously when that happens in that situation and we lose the lead it hurts a little bit more.''
Poche deserved some of the blame, allowing a two-out single to former Rays prospect Nick Solak and then a walk to Danny Santana.
"(Anderson) should have never been in that situation in the first place,'' Poche said. "Anytime you get two quick outs like that you need to finish the inning. It happens. But it’s not fair to him, for him to maybe rush his warmups to get ready to come in and bail me out of a situation we shouldn’t have been in.''
The decision to use Andrew Kittredge as the opener seemed based on an opportunity to maximize the matchups for their pitching staff.
That went awry promptly, as they went through three of them to get those first three outs facing 12 batters in giving up the seven runs.
It was the only the fifth time in franchise history the Rays allowed seven or more runs in a first inning, though the second in just more than a year after going 11 years without.
Down 7-2 after the first, the Rays made it interesting, and even a bit promising. Potentially historic even, as no team since the 2006 Indians had come back to win a game after allowing seven or more runs in the first.
The Rays, after some dugout pep talking, tied it with five runs it in the top of the second, with Ji-Man Choi’s three-run homer the biggest blow.
"After the inning changed we were all encouraging each other that we had eight more (innings) to catch up and everybody was getting all cheered up and getting encouraged from each other,'' Choi said via translator Ha Ram (Sam) Jeong.
And they took an 8-7 lead in the fourth when they loaded the bases with one out as Austin Meadows singled, Travis d’Arnaud was hit by a pitch and Choi walked, then Matt Duffy delivered a sac fly. (Choi homered again in the ninth, his 15th of the season.)
Manager Kevin Cash and staff made at least a curious if not a trying-to-be-too creative decision in setting up the pitching plan.
Wednesday seemed to be Pruitt’s day to pitch in their always flexible version of a rotation, and he was coming off a pair of very impressive back to back starts, allowing one earned run over 10⅓ innings against the Indians and Blue Jays.
But rather than start Pruitt, the Rays decided to go with an opener, and chose Kittredge. He had done it four times before with some success, though his overall numbers were trending the wrong way before a pair of perfect innings Friday.
Wednesday, Kittredge was perfect the other way, allowing singles to Shin-Soo Choo, Elvis Andrus and Willie Calhoun, which was enough for Cash.
And rather than go then to Pruitt, Cash opted for Beeks, a result of the Rangers having five lefties in lineup, thinking he could get them out of the first.
That couldn’t have worked out much worse.
Beeks faced eight batters, and it went like this: RBI single, bases-loading walk, two-run single, strikeout, bases loading walk, fielder’s choice grounder (with a Matt Duffy error) scoring two, fielder’s choice grounder, RBI single.
"Just wasn’t his day,'' Cash said. "He was off, for whatever reasons.''
By the time Pruitt came in to get the final out of the first, the Rays were down 7-2. Pruitt ended up pitching effectively, allowing only one hit over the 3⅓ innings he was allowed to work.
Cash said it wasn’t a specific change in plans for Pruitt but more in philosophy, as a result of getting Brendan McKay and Tyler Glasnow back in the rotation, to use bulk inning guys like Pruitt, Beeks and Trevor Richards in shorter outings and to have them available more often and not limited to scheduled days.
"It’s not really trying anything different,'' Cash said. "It’s not his "day,' per se. We’ve got to many guys in the pen now, like what we’ve done with Richards, it’s one time through (the order) for these guys. We certainly want to keep them fresh enough and available enough to go deeper if they have their pitches.''
Pitching wasn’t the only problem for the Rays, as they made four outs on the bases, certainly costly in a one-run game.
That included Davis picked off first in his debut. "I’ve just got to be better,'' he said. Also, Matt Duffy was caught off third, Guillermo Heredia picked off first and Choi caught by the catcher late getting back to second.
"Our baserunning has gotten really, really good over the last couple weeks,'' Cash said. "Tonight it kind of came to a head. We ended some opportunities, some scoring opportunities with probably some over-aggressive baserunning.''
There was a lot of wrong to pick through.
"That was a crazy game,'' Pruitt said.
Contact Marc Topkin at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @TBTimes_Rays.