MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — This was a tough one for the Tampa Bay Rays to lose.
With reigning Cy Young Award winner David Price on the mound facing a Minnesota team hadn’t beaten them since last year, the Rays blew a three-run lead and wasted a chance to overtake Texas for the AL wild-card lead.
Not exactly what the Rays wanted heading into a four-game series with the Rangers that opens Monday.
“We’ve had way too many missteps already this year. That’s what’s got us in this position,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said after watching Joel Peralta allow eighth-inning homers to Ryan Doumit and Josmil Pinto in a 6-4 loss Sunday. “We have played well enough to have a much better record. We haven’t closed the deal.”
Tampa Bay appeared on its way to a season sweep of the Twins after Wil Myers and Sean Rodriguez homered to build a 3-0 lead. With his team up 4-2 and two outs in the eighth, Peralta threw a first-pitch strike to Doumit.
Next pitch: gone.
Then Trevor Plouffe singled, Josh Willingham walked and Pinto followed by sending an 0-1 pitch into the Rays bullpen in center field.
By the time the rookie came out of the dugout for a curtain call following his second career homer and All-Star closer Glen Perkins came in from the bullpen, the cheering crowd had completely forgotten about how futile Price had made the Twins lineup look earlier.
“This one hurts the most,” Peralta said. “We really need these games. We need every game.”
Tampa Bay, which had won its previous three games, dropped to 7-14 since Aug. 25. The Rays remained tied with Texas for the two AL wild-card spots, a half-game ahead of Cleveland.
Minnesota had lost 11 in a row to the Rays.
“You go through funks like this, and hopefully we’re done with that one and we can move forward,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said.
Peralta (2-8) blew a save for the third time in four chances, but his teammates and manager refused to criticize him.
“I’ll take Peralta any day,” Price said. “I don’t care what the score is, how many runs there are. That guy has been an absolute warrior for us. It was just a tough loss.”
Tampa Bay left the bases loaded twice. Delmon Young hit an inning-ending flyout in the fifth and Casey Fien (5-2) retired pinch-hitter David DeJesus on a bases-loaded flyout in the eighth.
“We should have won that game easily,” Maddon said. “We had plenty of opportunities to score more runs, so it wasn’t just about giving up four in the eighth. We had our opportunities, and we have to continue to push and push and put runs on the board.”
Perkins pitched a perfect ninth for his 35th save in 39 chances.
Price allowed two runs and six hit in 6 1-3 innings. Myers put Tampa Bay ahead in the fourth with a two-run homer off Pedro Hernandez that reached the middle deck in center. Rodriguez homered leading off the fifth.
Chris Parmalee’s two-run single off Jake McGee in the seventh ended Minnesota’s season-high 25-inning scoreless streak. James Loney had an RBI single in the eighth.
“That’s a game we need to win,” Maddon said.
NOTES: Pinto has a hit in eight of his 11 games with the Twins. … Hernandez pitched five innings, allowing three runs, four hits and four walks. … Tampa Bay’s winning streak against the Twins was tied for second-longest against an opponent in Rays’ history. … Twins All-Star C Joe Mauer (concussion) will not make the team’s upcoming trip to Chicago. … The Rays are 12-4 at Target Field after going 17-31 at the Metrodome. … The Rays’ Ben Zobrist went 2-for-5 to stop an 0-for-16 slump. … Alex Cobb (8-3) starts for the Rays on Monday against former teammate Matt Garza (9-5). … The Twins begin a three-game series against the Chicago White Sox. Liam Hendriks (1-2) will start for Minnesota against Erik Johnson (0-2).