Following another dreadful performance with runners in scoring position during a 2-1, 10-inning loss to the Boston Red Sox on Saturday, Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon wasn't making excuses.
He wasn't second-guessing himself, either.
"For that group of people out there that want guys to bunt all the time, you don't know the outcome when you choose to do that," Maddon said, of choosing not to bunt with two runners on base and no outs in the ninth inning, and again following a leadoff double in the 10th. "I think the bunt is an overrated play."
The Rays, losers of four of five games, are now 0 for their last 17 with runners in scoring position. They went 0 for 11 Saturday.
"That's the true issue right there," Maddon said. "We had some good at-bats, but we had opportunities that we just came up empty. And thats really the tale of the game, is the inability to drive in the run because they were out there to be driven in."
Tampa Bay was on the verge of taking the lead in the ninth after Red Sox closer Joel Hanrahan walked the first two batters.
With James Loney pinch-hitting for Shelley Duncan, Maddon opted to let him swing away. Koji Uehara entered and struck out Loney looking before getting the next two hitters easily.
Jose Molina led off the 10th with a double off Junichi Tazawa (2-0) and was replaced by pinch runner Kelly Johnson. Tazawa, though, got Matt Joyce to fly out before recording the final two outs.
"I would bunt in the circumstance when you feel like the people on deck and in the hole are the guys you're looking for against that particular pitcher," Maddon explained. "For instance, I thought Loney had the best chance to hit against Uehara. And Matt Joyce is hitting right there. I don't want Matt to bunt the runner to third base. I'd rather have him try to pull the ball right there and score the run and move him, or both.
"The guys hitting afterwards are not really tearing the ball up right now. So again, it's the outcome by situation, where if James gets a base hit, it was the right move, but he did not."
Shane Victorino had a well-placed RBI single into a five-man infield in the bottom of the 10th inning, lifting the Red Sox to the win.
David Ross had a solo homer for Boston, which snapped a two-game losing streak.
Jacoby Ellsbury singled with one out against Brandon Gomes (0-1), stole second and advanced on catcher Jose Lobaton's throwing error. Victorino then hit a hard grounder into the unusual infield configuration that second baseman Ben Zobrist made a diving stop on to his right, but was unable to make a throw home.
Hanrahan, who gave up five runs in the ninth of a loss to Baltimore on Wednesday, opened the ninth by walking Evan Longoria and Zobrist.
The anticipated matchup of prized lefties, reigning AL Cy Young Award winner David Price and Jon Lester, lived up to its billing.
Lester held the Rays to one run on five hits, walked one and struck out five to move into sixth place ahead of Luis Tiant on the club's career strikeout list with 1,078. Tiant had 1,075 from 1971-78.
Price, coming off a miserable start when he allowed a career-worst eight runs last Sunday against Cleveland, pitched six innings, allowing just the solo homer to Ross and three other hits while striking out eight and walking four.
Price mostly mixed a sharp cutter with a fastball and an occasional curve to make the Red Sox hitters look as if they were guessing most of the time.
With the Red Sox trailing 1-0 in the fifth, Ross belted a homer out of Fenway Park, sending a hanging changeup over the Green Monster seats. Before that, Boston had just one infield hit — a bouncer to deep short that Victorino barely beat out.
The Rays jumped ahead 1-0 in the third, but Lester stranded Sean Rodriguez on third base after he reached with no outs. Desmond Jennings singled and scored when Rodriguez's doubled down the left field line didn't carom very far and stayed deep in the corner. He advanced on a wild pitch.
Lester then fanned Longoria on a cutter, surpassing Tiant, Zobrist was robbed on first baseman Mike Napoli's diving catch of his liner and Shelley Duncan grounded out.
Boston had runners on first and second after consecutive two-out singles by Napoli and Will Middlebrooks, but Price got Daniel Nava on an easy fly to center.
NOTES: Maddon has decided to hit Longoria third against lefties, hoping the slugger's power returns soon. Longoria is currently in the longest streak of his career starting a season without a home run. ... Boston manager John Farrell said RHP John Lackey, on the 15-day DL with a strained right biceps, could start playing catch in a day or two. ... Boston LHP Felix Doubront, skipped with Friday's rainout, threw a two-inning simulated game Saturday morning. "It served the purpose we were intending," Farrell said. ... Price entered Saturday's start with a 3.08 ERA in his career against the Red Sox, best by any opponent with at least 15 starts. ... RHP Clay Buchholz (2-0, 0.64 ERA) is scheduled to face Rays' RHP Alex Cobb (1-0, 0.00) on Sunday. ... Red Sox DH David Oritz, who missed all of spring training with an Achilles injury, went 1 for 4 with a single and two RBIs in a rehab game with Triple-A Pawtucket Saturday. It was the opener of a doubleheader.