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Rays

Royals hang on to edge Rays

The Tampa Tribune
Published:   |   Updated: March 20, 2013 at 11:18 PM
ST. PETERSBURG -

About the only thing missing from the Rays' surreal start was a dramatic walk-off home run.

Enter Evan Longoria on Friday night in the bottom of the ninth with two on and his team down by two.

Longoria launched an 0-2 cutter from Joakim Soria to left field that went back, back, back ...

To where it was caught against the wall by Scott Podsednik for a sacrifice fly.

B.J. Upton lined out to center field, and the Rays had their first loss in six games, falling 3-2 to the Royals before an engaged crowd of 25,195 at Tropicana Field.

"I put my hands up, and then I quickly put them back down," Carlos Peña said of believing Longoria had won the game after giving the Rays a 1-0 lead in the second inning with a solo home run.

"I thought off the bat, that was gone. But then I see (Podsednik) having a bead on it, and next thing you know, he's feeling for the wall and he makes a catch."

So the Rays, who entered Friday night having outscored their opponents 117-44 since their season-opening 3-3 homestand against the Orioles and Yankees, finished the opening month ONLY 17-6.

It was the third-best month in club history and the best April in the majors since 2003, when the Yankees went 20-6. The 17 wins are three more than the Rays had ever won in April.

Many of them have been routs. The Rays' lone walk-off win of the season came on a Carl Crawford double in the opener against Baltimore.

"All we talked about was to get off to a good start, to dominate games late, and to really understand the fine line between winning and losing," Manager Joe Maddon said. "I think we really accomplished the start."

It was a tough break for the Rays that the game turned on an error in the top of the ninth by reliever Randy Choate, because Tampa Bay otherwise played stellar defense - particularly from Gold Glove first baseman Peña.

Peña dove to rob David DeJesus of possibly an extra-base hit down the first base line to start the game and made a somersault catch over the Rays dugout railing on a DeJesus pop in the fourth.

Pitcher Wade Davis and infielder Reid Brignac caught Peña, likely preventing an injury.

"I stepped on (Davis') leg and tore up his uniform and made him bleed and everything," Peña said. "I made sure he was fine, and he's doing OK. My teammates picked me up."

The Rays got stout starting pitching from Jeff Niemann, who, thanks to a couple of double plays, pitched to the minimum of 18 batters through six innings and threw only 61 pitches in the process.

Niemann ran into some trouble in the seventh after opening with a walk to DeJesus. Podsednik bunted DeJesus to second, Billy Butler singled and Jose Guillen hit a ground-rule double that would have scored both runs if the ball hadn't bounced over the wall.

Another double play helped Niemann limit the damage to one run, and the game stayed tied at 1 until the ninth.

The turning point came when reliever Choate misplayed Podsednik's comebacker to the mound to lead off the ninth.

Maddon summoned Rafael Soriano, and the closer gave up a single to Butler and hit Guillen to load the bases. An RBI sacrifice fly by Alberto Callaspo gave the Royals the lead, and an RBI single by Mitch Maier added insurance.

"It's one bad game, and you keep going tomorrow," Soriano said. "You're not going to win every day. Everybody saw what happened. Forget that, and be ready tomorrow."

Choate had the ball in his glove but lost it, then rushed to pull it out for the throw.

"Ninety-nine times out of 100, I make that play," Choate said. "I had plenty of time, especially if I had fired it over there after pulling it out."

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