ARLINGTON, Texas — The five-man infield worked. Bases-loaded, one out, fly ball to right field, too shallow for the winning run on third to try and score. Perfect.
With two outs, the Tampa Bay Rays went back to a traditional defense, four infielders, three outfielders.
And that’s when reliever Cesar Ramos couldn’t find the strike zone.
Ramos walked Adam Rosales on four pitches to force home the winning run in the bottom of the 14th inning Tuesday as the Texas Rangers rallied for a 3-2 victory at Globe Life Park.
“That’s just unacceptable on my part at that point,” Ramos said. “Getting two outs and having an opportunity to get out of it, losing it like that is unacceptable. ... I’d rather give up a hit than give a guy a free base. Especially to do it on four pitches is pretty embarrassing.”
It was the third extra-inning loss for the Rays in the first eight games of this 10-game road trip. It was the second extra-inning loss in their last three games, with Ramos taking the loss both times.
For the Rangers, the win snapped a streak of 48 straight losses when trailing after six innings.
“I don’t know any other way to say it other than it’s a tough pill to swallow.” Tampa Bay’s Evan Longoria said. “It’s got to be a tough pill to swallow for (Ramos) and for us as a group, it’s a frustrating night.”
The Rays led 2-0 thanks to a pair of sixth inning triples. Desmond Jennings had the first one, and he scored on a sacrifice fly by Ben Zobrist.
Matt Joyce had the second, and he continued on home after the throw by second baseman Rougned Odor bounced past third baseman Adrian Beltre and into the photographers’ well behind third base.
Rays starter Jeremy Hellickson was not as dominant as he was in his victory earlier in the trip in Oakland, but he threw six shutout innings and turned the lead over to the bullpen.
Joel Peralta came on for the seventh inning and allowed two runs on four hits. He would have allowed three runs if not for a laser of a throw to home plate by right fielder Kevin Kiermaier on a single by Elvis Andrus that reached Jose Molina in plenty of time for the catcher to tag out Shin-Soo Choo.
Peralta’s streak of scoreless outings since he returned from the disabled list ended at eight.
“I just couldn’t get the ball down,” Peralta said. “They got to it, and they hit me pretty good. I didn’t have it tonight.”
The Rays’ defense came into play again in the eighth inning. With a runner on second base, Jennings ran down a long fly ball by Leonys Martin, catching it as he slammed into the all in center field.
“I didn’t feel like I even had a step,” Jennings said about having just enough space after making the catch before the impact.
Kiermaier made a running catch on a sinking line drive in the 10th inning and threw to James Loney at first base to double up Rosales, who had walked with one out.
But after scoring seven runs in Monday’s win, the Rays’ bats again went cold Tuesday.
They had only five hits through nine innings with the first coming off Rangers starter Nick Tepesch in the fifth inning.
Molina singled to lead off the top of the 10th and was replaced by pinch-runner Cole Figueroa. Kiermaier dropped a sacrifice bunt and was save when Andrus, covering first base, dropped the throw.
Jennings, batting with the go-ahead run at second base, tried to bunt. He fouled off his first two attempts. With two strikes, he tried to bunt against, but fouled off that attempt for strike three.
“Trying to get a bunt down,” Jennings said.
“I’m sure he felt like he can do it, and I’m not faulting him,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “We still had a runner in scoring position with Zo (Zobrist) coming in and (Brandon) Guyer after that, which was not bad, because (Rangers pitcher Neftali) Feliz has a little bit of a reverse work where righties were hitting him pretty well this year, too, so I’m good with that.”
But Zobrist bounced into a double play to end the inning.
Maddon used every available reliever, including the struggling Grant Balfour. Balfour pitched two scoreless innings to get the game to the 14th.
Ramos retired the first batter and got the second hitter, Geovany Soto, to hit a grounder to Longoria. Longoria tried to play the ball to his right side. He couldn’t make the play and was charged with an error.
“It’s really a positioning play,” Longoria said. “I was in the position I wanted to be in, but where the ball was hit, it was hit too far away for me to charge it. I would have had to wave at it if I would have charged and hopefully got it in my glove. I made the right play. It just was hit, it was top-spinning, I just didn’t, I guess, keep my eye on it long enough.”
Maddon said he didn’t thing Longoria should have been charged with an error.
“That’s a tough play, but nevertheless that kind of leads to that moment,” Maddon said.
That moment included a single by Odor through the hole and a bloop over the head of Zobrist, who started at shortstop in place of Yunel Escobar.
With the bases loaded and one out, Maddon sent Escobar in for Guyer, who was playing left field, and used Escobar as the fifth infielder. Jennings played straight away in center field and Kiermaier remained in right field.
Andrus came to bat with no left fielder. He flew out to Kiermaier but not deep enough for Nick Martinez, a Rangers pitcher who was running for Soto, to try to score from third base.
“(I was) trying to get one out and then the next one,” Ramos said. “I was trying to get Andrus to hit a ground ball but he got underneath it to hit a soft pop up. Luckily KK was there to catch it.”
Said Longoria, “After (Ramos) got Andrus out I felt fairly confident we were going to get out of the inning; a guy like him, a contact guy not easy to double up.”
Up came Rosales, and Ramos suddenly couldn’t throw his fastball for a strike.
“Just throw a strike. Just give us a chance at that point,” Maddon said. “We got out of the bases-loaded one-out gig with the pop up to right, but they scored.”
It was another tough loss for the Rays in a road trip filled with tough losses in a season filled with tough losses.
“We were challenged offensively,” Maddon said, “but we did a lot of things really well, and we got to win that game.”
Maddon used every reliever but right-hander Kirby Yates. He said the team will make a move today to get a fresh arm to Arlington in time for tonight’s game against the Rangers … The Rays did manage to set the American League record for consecutive road games allowing three runs or fewer at 16 at eight. It is also a team record for consecutive games allowing three runs or fewer. The Rays are 4-4 in those games.