SEATTLE - A Gold Glove first baseman is supposed to make the play. Carlos Pena, who won the award for fielding excellence in 2008, did not. Thus, the Rays' seven-game winning streak came to a crashing halt on Tuesday night, as the Mariners took a 3-2 win in walk-off fashion at Safeco Field.
Tuesday's undoing came in the ninth inning, with unflappable closer Fernando Rodney on the mound.
With the Rays leading 2-1, Kyle Seager singled through the right side to lead off the ninth. Pinch-hitter Chone Figgins then stepped to the plate and everybody in the ballpark knew he would be trying to move Seager to second with a sacrifice bunt.
"I actually liked the fact they were bunting there," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "I felt very good about Rodney on the next couple of guys."
Figgins took Rodney's first two pitches before bunting a fastball foul. Facing a 2-1 count, Figgins finally managed to push a bunt to the right side.
Pena fielded the ball cleanly and immediately looked to second. He then turned back to first and threw wild over the head of Sean Rodriguez covering the bag. Seager reached third on the play and Figgins reached second.
"That's a play that Carlos makes 100 out of 100 times," Maddon said. "I don't know exactly what happened, but it was very routine. I don't know why it ended up the way it did."
Pena explained that he is always thinking about getting the lead runner, particularly when it represents the tying run.
"So originally, right off the bat, I thought I had a shot," Pena said. "First instinct was to go after that ball, plant and throw to second. But as soon as I looked up, I realized it might be too close. And to change all your intentions in a matter of seconds is not a good idea.
"I had my mind made up pretty much I thought I had read the bunt well. And as soon as I tried to switch gears, I couldn't recover. I couldn't get my rhythm back. ... I was way off. Obviously, immediately after that happened you feel this devastation because you know you let your team down, the pitcher on the mound down."
Justin Smoak's sacrifice fly to center field tied the score at 2-2, while allowing Figgins to move to third. Maddon then called in right fielder Ben Zobrist to become a fifth infielder.
Miguel Olivo struck out for the second out to bring Eric Thames to the plate and he came through, blooping a 1-2 offering into right field for a single that scored Figgins with the winning run.
"I knew after that first fastball, he was going to come all splits," Thames said. "I faced him a lot over there with Toronto, so I knew he was going to throw it low and away, so I just sat in that zone and tried to hit through it. I got a piece of it, got enough of it to get it over Rodriguez."
Rodney, who pitched for a fourth straight day, said he felt like he had good stuff. After striking out Olivo, he had a chance to move the game into extra innings.
"Yeah, we have a chance [at that point], I tried to make a pitch, but he slapped the bat, put the bat on the ball, got a base hit," said Rodney, who saw his club record streak of 22 consecutive saves snapped, despite both runs he allowed being unearned. "It's part of the game. Some day they make a good play, some day we make it. ... We see what happens tomorrow."
The loss dropped the Rays six games behind the American League East-leading Yankees. They are tied at 63-53 with the Orioles atop the AL Wild Card standings.
The Rays got off to another good start Tuesday night, which had been the team's trademark during its winning streak.
Desmond Jennings opened the game with a single to left off Mariners starter Kevin Millwood. B.J. Upton followed with a triple down the left-field line to drive home Jennings. One out later, Upton scored on Evan Longoria's sacrifice fly to right to give the Rays a 2-0 lead.
Millwood then held the Rays scoreless for the final six innings of his outing to come away with a no-decision.
"I thought [Millwood] was really good," Maddon said. "He had three 3-0 counts that he came back and struck out guys. He did that to [Matt] Joyce, [Evan Longoria] and to [Ryan] Roberts. He knows what he's doing out there."
Matt Moore started for the Rays and held the Mariners to one run on six hits while striking out nine in seven innings. But what should have been his 10th victory turned into a no-decision.
"Matt did such an unbelievable job today," Pena said. "And it hurts because I wanted him to get that win and for the team because we've been playing so well I wanted to keep it going. So it's one of those mistakes that really, really hurts."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.