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Rays walk off losers to O's in 14-inning epic

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Published:   |   Updated: March 18, 2013 at 12:45 PM
BALTIMORE -

Chris Archer thought Matt Joyce had made the catch and the inning was over and there was more baseball to be played on this long afternoon at Camden Yards.

Why not? With the way the events unfolded between the Tampa Bay Rays and Baltimore Orioles, a diving catch by a guy who began the day on the bench, entered as pinch-hitter, played right field then found himself playing left field seemed to be in order.

But the ball somehow eluded Joyce's glove and the runner raced home, giving the Orioles a 3-2, 14-inning victory against the Rays in a game the Rays really needed to win.

"For as much excitement and on the edge of your seat-type of plays we had in the game, it was kind of like a slow-motion, unexciting end on our part," Evan Longoria said.

The Rays were swept in the three-game series, losing again Thursday on the last hit of the game, another one-run loss in a season of one-run losses. They now sit four games behind a playoff spot with 19 games remaining in the regular season.

Tonight is the start of a three-game series against the Yankees in New York, three more big games against a team the Rays are chasing for a playoff berth.

"These games aren't just another baseball game," second baseman Ryan Roberts said. "These games mean something, and they mean a lot. To come in and get swept was not good."

Rays manager Joe Maddon used a team-record nine pitchers and 17 position players. Three different players played first base. He used three catchers. He gave up the designated hitter when he sent Longoria to third base in the ninth inning.

The 26 players is a franchise record and the most used by an American League team since the Oakland A's used 30 against the Chicago White Sox in September 1972.

Archer entered the game in the 11th inning, taking over Roberts' at-bat after Roberts left the game after fouling a pitch off his left ankle.

Maddon used a five-man infield and two-man outfield in the 13th inning with the bases loaded and no outs, and it worked. Archer got a ground ball then two strikeouts to send the game to the 14th inning.

But in the end the story was familiar. The Orioles found a way to get a big hit and win a one-run game, while the Rays did not.

The Rays have lost an American League-high 26 one-run games, including 13 of their last 16. The Orioles, by contrast, are 27-7 in one-run games and have won 13 straight extra-inning games.

The Rays managed only six runs in the series, two in each game.

"We just have not been unable to get a hit in that part of the game, tie games, we've had opportunities and we just are unable (to hit)," Maddon said. "It's purely that simple."

Actually, they managed one run in the eighth when Desmond Jennings drew a leadoff walk, moved to second on a passed ball, stole third when B.J. Upton struck out and scored when Ben Zobrist's infield single rolled about 40 feet up the third-base line.

That answered a two-run, seventh inning double by Orioles catcher Taylor Teagarden off Wade Davis, only Teagarden's sixth hit of the season.

Archer pitched 32/3 innings and seemed to have things under control when he retired the first two batters in the 14th inning. But he walked Adam Jones then allowed an opposite-field single to Endy Chavez.

Manny Machado, the star of Wednesday's walk-off 3-2 victory, lifted a fly ball into short left field, where Joyce's diving attempt came up short.

"It kind of like hit the bottom of my glove and the ground at the same time," Joyce said. "I just know I didn't come up with it."

Joyce remained on his stomach for a few moments as the Orioles celebrated another win in front of another sea of orange-clad fans.

"Frustration, disappointment, there're a lot of words, a lot of ways to describe it, but you've got to move on quick, got to have short-term memory," Joyce said. "The game doesn't always go the way you want it. It's frustration. It's disappointing. But you can't hang your head. We have to go on to New York, and we have another big series there."


rmooney@tampatrib.com

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