CHICAGO — The Tampa Bay Rays had a one-run lead, and starting pitcher David Price was sailing along on a sunny Sunday afternoon when Chicago’s Gordon Beckham sent a hard grounder to Ben Zobrist that the Rays’ second baseman usually handles with ease. Except Zobrist didn’t.
And that was the beginning of the worst fielding inning in team history as the Rays unraveled to the tune of a team-record four errors.
“I don’t know what to say,” Zobrist said. “That’s not us.”
What looked so promising for five innings quickly turned into an ugly 9-2 loss to the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field, the fifth loss in the last seven games for the Rays.
“We haven’t made that many mistakes all season like we made in this game,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “Just one of those days, man. Just awful.”
White Sox rookie Scott Carroll won his major league debut with the help of three double plays and the sloppy fielding by the Rays’ normally airtight infield.
Zobrist’s error was followed by a hit-and-run single by Adam Eaton that shortstop Yunel Escobar, breaking toward his left to cover second base, couldn’t recover in time to field the ball that was hit to his right.
The Rays then made two errors on a bunt by Marcus Semien — Price threw the ball into right field to let one run score, and right fielder Wil Myers dropped the ball, then held on to it too long as Eaton rounded third and scored the second run on the play.
Jose Abreu, who crushed the Rays’ spirits Friday with a walk-off grand slam, hit the next pitch over the left field fence to give the White Sox a 4-1 lead.
Dayan Viciedo, who doubled, came home on a throwing error by Escobar for the final blunder of the inning.
“That’s very unusual,” Price said. “It’s uncharacteristic of us to make those errors. But we’re human, and I still feel like I have eight Gold Glovers out there when I’m out there on the mound. We have those days and it stinks.”
The Rays entered the game with a major league-low seven errors on the season. Their 66 errors since the start of the 2013 season were the second fewest in baseball.
What’s more, the Rays’ defense was sterling up to that point. Matt Joyce made a running catch in shallow left field to end the second inning. Evan Longoria made a diving grab at third base to end the fourth inning. Desmond Jennings made a diving catch in center field to start the fifth.
And then ... yikes.
“I’ve got to make that play for David, because if I make that play, maybe he gets the next guy and the next guy,” Zobrist said. “Sometimes those things, they just bunch up on you, and you’ve got to stop it before it starts.”
“I think the most important thing is the leadoff hitter, because that negates a bunch of other things,” Maddon said. “I don’t know if there’s more weight to apply to a particular (error), but it began that way and that led to the second play which led to the third play. They’re all pretty bad. They have equal negative weight I think.”
Eaton’s bunt was kind of harsh.
Maddon said it was important to get the out at first. But Price said he grabbed some grass along with the ball and that prevented him from making a good throw.
“I pride myself in being an athlete on the mound and being able to field my position extremely well,” Price said. “That’s a play I have to make.”
And Myers should have gotten the ball back to the infield quicker. Eaton raced home on Myers’ indecision.
“I didn’t know where to throw it, and all I saw was Zo in front of me and I tossed it to him,” Myers said. “If I had to do it again I would have fielded it cleanly and thrown it right to him.”
The four errors were the most for the Rays since they committed a team-record five on May 12, 2012. It was only the sixth time under Maddon the Rays committed as many as four errors.
“We haven’t made that many mistakes, I don’t think, all year, let alone one inning,” Maddon said. “It was just an unfortunate day. It happens. It happens to the best of them. It happened to us (Sunday) and you got to utilize the garbage can and move it along, that’s it.”