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TB@LAA: Kiermaier clubs first MLB homer to left

ANAHEIM -- The seven-game road stretch ended Sunday in Anaheim as it began on Monday in Seattle, with a lopsided defeat.

On Monday, the Mariners defeated the Rays, 12-5, in a game that Rays manager Joe Maddon called an ambush, adding: "We just sashayed into the canyon, and there was firing from both sides."

Sunday's 6-2 loss to the Angels -- though not as out of hand -- had a similar vibe, sending the Rays back to St. Petersburg with a 3-4 record on the trip and a 19-26 mark on the season, maintaining their new residence in the basement of the American League East.

Many of the team's losses have left a bitter residue. Since the beginning of the Rays' previous trip, they have gone 9-14, blowing 16 leads in those 23 games. Thursday night's 6-5 loss to the Angels ranks among the toughest of those, as they led by three entering the bottom of the ninth.

Hoping to flush some of those bad memories and to leave the West Coast with a winning mark, the Rays sent their best to the mound Sunday afternoon, and Davd Price came out firing. He struck out Collin Cowgill and Mike Trout to start the first, then got ahead of Albert Pujols, 0-2. But the slugger caught up to a 97-mph fastball and deposited it over the wall in center field for his 11th home run of the season.

Kevin Kiermaier, heralded as the Rays' resident defensive wizard, tracked Pujols' blast to see if he could time his leap and snatch the ball back at the last instant. Instead, the wall slapped down the rookie outfielder when he attempted to make the grab.

That was not the case when Erick Aybar hit a ball deep to right-center field with one out in the second. This time Kiermaier timed his leap perfectly, hauling in the drive for the second out while slamming into the padded wall. Price applauded the catch from the mound.

"The ball was carrying a lot today, and the first one, on Pujols, I miss-timed it," said Kiermaier, noting that he still probably could not have caught Pujols' drive. "The wall got to me quicker than I thought. So that second one, I felt surprised when I felt my feet hit the warning track. And I knew I had two steps and a jump, and I finally timed that one good. And made the catch. And Price acknowledging me, those things are really cool for me."

Kiermaier traveled back with the team to St. Petersburg, but he is most likely destined for Triple-A Durham, as Desmond Jennings is due to return from bereavement leave prior to Tuesday night's game against Oakland.

"This kid is one of the best outfielders in Major League Baseball," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "And he's doing this while he's in Durham, and he's one of the best. It's really a freaky thing."

In some games, a play like the one Kiermaier made can serve as a turning point. Sunday, the play simply provided a web gem for the highlight shows as the Angels continued to score.

Howie Kendrick's third-inning single drove home Trout to push the Angels' lead to 2-0, and Grant Green added an RBI single in the fourth. Normally steady third baseman Evan Longoria added to the damage in the fourth when he booted a shot by Cowgill that allowed two runs to score for a 5-0 lead.

"It took a funny hop," Longoria said. "It's a play that I need to make in that situation there. Those are the things we're not doing right now in those situations. You want to be the guy to make that play and turn it around. It just didn't happen. I thought David threw the ball well. That play right there kind of shot us in the foot."

Little-known Matt Shoemaker started for the Angels and made a nice accounting for himself in his third Major League start. The 27-year-old right-hander gave up a run on two hits and three walks while striking out six to earn his second win of the season.

Shoemaker "threw the ball well," said Longoria, who went 0-for-4 Sunday and 2-for-13 with an RBI in the series. "We watched some video on him before, and sometimes the video doesn't really tell the whole story of what a guy is. It was bright out there today. He had some deception. And he just outpitched us."

Kiermaier's two-run homer off Mike Morin in the seventh cut the deficit to three runs, but Pujols answered in the bottom half of the inning with his second home run of the afternoon to put the Angels up by 6-2.

Pujols' 504th career home run tied him with Eddie Murray for 25th place on the all-time home run list.

"We've got our game plan, and we executed it," Pujols said. "Price's going to throw his game. He just made a couple of mistakes, and we took advantage. You know with a guy like that you've got to be aggressive; you might only get one pitch."

Price allowed six runs (five earned) on 11 hits while striking out seven in 6 2/3 innings to take his fourth loss of the season.

Forty-five games into the season, Longoria said he did not know what it was going to take to right the Rays' ship.

"I never know what the answer is," Longoria said. "I think when it happens you don't really know it's happening. I think right now we're just a little too focused on trying to make it happen and not just letting it happen. ... Just keep plugging away. We have to first believe it's going to happen before it does."

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