MINNEAPOLIS — The Tampa Bay Rays were four outs away from taking the lead in the AL wild-card standings Sunday when Minnesota's Ryan Doumit homered to right field off Joel Peralta.
Then came a single, a walk and a long home run to left-center field by a guy playing in only his 11th big-league game.
The Twins rallied past the Rays with a four-run eighth inning for a 6-4 victory at Target Field.
“Looked like it was going to be a good inning, and then the homer and then the base hit and then the walk and then boom,” Peralta said. “It's baseball, man, they win. Nothing I can say.”
The loss snapped the Rays' three-game winning streak and left them tied with the Texas Rangers for the wild-card lead; the teams open a four-game series tonight at Tropicana Field.
The Rays return from the quick weekend trip to Minneapolis in much better spirits than they did last week when they returned from a dismal West Coast trip to start a three-game series with the Red Sox.
Trouble is, they could be in a better position if not for a few issues that have dogged them of late — an inability to get a hit with the bases loaded and the inability to hold on to late-inning leads.
The Rays were 0-for-3 on Sunday with the bases full and are hitless in their past 15 at-bats with them loaded.
“It's really been a tough play for us,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “It's a play you'd think you'd like to be in, but it's been a tough play for us.”
And, they have lost 13 games this season when leading in the eighth inning or later.
Also, Peralta lost his eighth game of the season Sunday, including three of the Rays' past nine games.
“Obviously it's our own fault,” Maddon said. “You can look at the eighth inning, but we had opportunities to score more runs. It's still the two things. The most obvious thing is hitting with runners in scoring position has not been good. But that's a game we need to win. We have really good relief pitchers, late-inning relief pitchers, and you really expect to win that.”
All the runners left on base — eight — and empty at-bats with runners in scoring position — 1-for-5 — wouldn't have mattered had Peralta closed out the eighth inning.
Pitching with a 4-2 lead, he retired the first two batters on a fly ball to right and a strikeout. But Peralta hung a change-up to Doumit and the Twins roared back.
Maddon had Alex Torres warming in the bullpen but said he was saving the left-hander for a matchup with the left-handed Chris Parmelee had Parmelee batted with the bases loaded.
It never got to that. Josmil Pinto, called up Aug. 31, hit a three-run homer.
“We're playing better now, and that's why it feels so bad to go out there and blow it, when the last couple games we've been really good,” Peralta said. “So it really hurt.”
How much does it hurt?
“I don't think you know,” Peralta said. “I don't think you get there. Really bad.”
Sunday was Peralta's American League-leading 73rd appearance of the season. Had he finished it, he would have earned his AL-best 38th hold.
Rays starter David Price, denied the victory because of Peralta's meltdown, said he hasn't lost faith in the right-hander despite the last couple of rough outings.
“That's pretty good if it's just a couple,” Price said. “We play 145, however many games we played this year, he's had a couple of slip-ups. That guy has over 70 appearances. He's unbelievable. We all have the utmost confidence in Peralta and the rest of the bullpen guys. ... He's had a rough couple of weeks or whatever it's been. We still stand behind that guy 110 percent.”
Maddon said Peralta's heavy workload this year is not the issue.
“That's the easy explanation, but I don't think so,” Maddon said. “The velocity is still good.”
Maddon also said he will stick with Peralta as his eighth-inning setup man.
“The thing is, this is who we are,” Maddon said. “For us to go deep into the playoffs, it pretty much has to work this way. You only try and reinvent right now if you have injuries. Otherwise you got to stay with the guys, and I have all the faith in the world he's going to be fine.”