ST. PETERSBURG -- Advantage Texas.
What promised to be a pitching duel between Tampa Bay's Matt Moore and Texas' Yu Darvish turned ugly for the Rays in an 8-2 loss Thursday night at Tropicana Field.
Tampa Bay fell back into a tie with Texas for the top American League Wild Card spot, while Cleveland won in walk-off fashion, 2-1, in 11 innings against Houston to move to within a half-game of both teams.
By winning, the Rangers moved to 4-3 against the Rays this season, thereby earning home-field advantage over the Rays in the AL Wild Card Game, should they finish tied as the top two Wild Card teams.
"That's just the way it is," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "I don't worry about stuff like that."
Moore brought a .833 winning percentage into the contest while Darvish countered with his 2.79 ERA -- impressive calling cards that brought a forecast for a lot of zeroes.
Hardly. A three-hour, 40-minute game followed with 10 runs scored on 23 hits and 10 walks.
Both starters struggled from the outset, with Texas taking a 1-0 lead in the first only to lose it in bottom half of the inning, when Darvish needed 40 pitches to escape.
"Neither guy was on top of his game tonight," Maddon said.
The Rays led, 2-1, entering the third. That's when the Rangers tapped the keg, seemingly playing a game of slow-pitch that featured solo home runs from Mitch Moreland, Alex Rios and Elvis Andrus to give them a 4-2 advantage.
Moore had never before allowed more than two home runs in a start, much less three in one inning. In doing so, he earned the dubious distinction of being the first Rays pitcher to surrender three home runs in an inning since James Shields did so on Aug. 7, 2010, at Toronto.
"The middle of their lineup was just giving me a hard time," Moore said. "I was in some decent counts. Those home runs there, those are pretty tough to work around. Doesn't matter if they're solo if there are three of them, they're going to put you in a hole."
Frustrations escalated for the Rays in the fourth, when Craig Gentry and Ian Kinsler executed a two-out double steal, giving the Rangers their third and fourth steals of the game; they would finish with five. Andrus followed with a two-run infield single.
Yes, that's correct, a two-run infield single.
Rays shortstop Yunel Escobar fielded Andrus' slow chopper and Andrus beat the throw to first. Kinsler alertly raced home on the play to beat first baseman James Loney's throw home.
"It was a tough play for Escobar, Andrus beats it out, and then they're mentally capable of scoring two runs on that one out," Maddon said. "And that's a big play right there, because that should not have happened. We gave them a lot of runs tonight."
Moore did not return to pitch the fifth, leaving the game after allowing five earned runs on seven hits to take his fourth loss of the season and first since June 14 against the Royals. The loss snapped his streak of seven consecutive wins, which was tied for the third-longest active winning streak in the Major Leagues.
"I don't know, I'm kind of at a loss for words as far as how they were seeing me," Moore said. "I didn't have too many tendencies. They were pretty aggressive, especially pitches I missed out over the plate."
Darvish's performance resembled a survival training exercise. Despite allowing the Rays' leadoff batter to reach in four of the five innings he pitched, he managed to use his 109 pitches to safely navigate the potential messes and come away with his 13th win of the season. It was his first since Aug. 12 at Houston, snapping a four-game losing streak.
"Darvish is wonderful, but he was totally off his game tonight with six walks," Maddon said. "And to not take advantage that, that was our fault. I've only seen Darvish a couple of times, but he was struggling to throw a strike. And the opportunities were all over the place with the right guys coming up, but it failed to work out."
Texas manager Ron Washington saluted his ace's effort Thursday night.
"He found out what grinding means," Washington said. "He grinded through those five innings. He just couldn't get any rhythm going out there and couldn't get a good release point, but when he had to make a pitch, he made a pitch. Sometimes you have to figure out ways to get things done when you're not at your very best or even at your minimum. And he did that tonight."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.