PHOENIX – Tampa Bay overcame the early loss of starter Chris Archer, rallied from a three-run deficit and appeared to be headed toward a gritty victory.
Instead, the Rays will leave the desert wondering what might have been.
The Rays failed to hold a lead for the second straight game against Arizona, losing 9-8 to the Diamondbacks on Wednesday night after Martin Prado hit a two-run single in the eighth inning.
"It was very difficult because we played hard," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "We definitely played hard tonight and well enough to win it."
It was a wild game from the start, featuring 28 combined hits, 12 pitchers and a team-record six double plays by Arizona.
Tampa Bay went up 3-0 in the first inning. Arizona rallied against the Rays' bullpen after Archer left in the second, taking a 7-4 lead by the fifth.
Tampa Bay fought back, scoring four runs in the seventh on two-run hits by Evan Longoria and pinch-hitter Sam Fuld.
J.J. Putz (3-1) gave Arizona a chance with a scoreless eighth inning and Arizona took its turn in the bottom half, loading the bases against Joel Peralta (1-5) and Fernando Rodney.
Prado followed with his two-run single to right and Brad Ziegler worked around two baserunners in the ninth for his seventh save, completing Arizona's 22nd win in its last at-bat.
"The one thing we can be consistent with is go all the way through, 27 outs," said Prado, who had four RBIs and four of Arizona's 12 hits. "This team, every single guy is ready to go up there."
The Rays had 16 hits, fought back after Archer went out with forearm stiffness and were up 8-7 after their four-run seventh.
They just couldn't match the Diamondbacks hit for hit, losing their first series since June 18-19 at Boston and consecutive road games for the first time since June 21-22 at the Yankees.
"Our bullpen was just not normal tonight," Maddon said. "Beyond all the double plays, etc., our bullpen is usually more lockdown than that."
The Rays got off to a good start, scoring three runs in the first inning off Randall Delgado, capped by Yunel Escobar's two-run double.
Archer, the AL's pitcher of the month in July, gave up a run on Paul Goldschmidt's RBI single in the first inning and got two outs in the second before leaving after throwing three pitches to Didi Gregorius. Archer was taken out for precautionary reasons and said he didn't think it was anything serious.
"I am glad they are cautious with me, thinking about the future and hopefully it just dissolves and my next start I am out there at normal game speed," Archer said.
Arizona took advantage of Tampa Bay's bullpen, scoring three runs in the third and fifth innings.
The Rays took their turn against Arizona's bullpen once Delgado was gone, going up 8-7 after Longoria hit a two-run double off Will Harris, and Fuld, who replaced Wil Myers (asthma symptoms), hit a two-run flare single to left off Joe Thatcher.
Problem was, the Diamondbacks still had outs left.
Arizona rallied in the eighth to set up Prado's hit and Ziegler induced a game-ending double play after Tampa Bay put two on with one out in the ninth, finishing off the two-game sweep.
"This is one of those games that tells you that you can go out there and finish strong," Prado said. "That's what we're looking for."
And just what the Rays didn't need.
Notes: The Rays have not had an error in nine straight games, one short of the team record. ... Myers singled in the first inning and has reached base in 21 straight games, second-longest by a Tampa Bay rookie behind Rocco Baldelli's 24 games in 2003. ... The Rays will have their third of four off days in a span of 12 days on Thursday before David Price faces the Dodgers' Chris Capuano on Friday. ... The Diamondbacks have Thursday off before left-hander Patrick Corbin goes for his 14th win of the season in the opener of a three-game series against the Mets on Friday.