CLEVELAND (AP) - Perfect in converting save opportunities since opening day, Chris Perez was probably due for a bad day.
Unfortunately for the Indians, their All-Star pitcher had one Sunday.
Perez allowed three runs in the ninth inning as Tampa Bay rallied for a 7-6 win in the final game before the All-Star break. Cleveland's outspoken closer, who has made headlines by irritating opponents and criticizing Cleveland fans for not attending games, hadn't blown a save since he failed to hold a lead in the opener against Toronto on April 5.
``It's been good so far but obviously, the first day and the last day of the first half stunk,' Perez said.
Perez (0-2) had converted 24 straight save opportunities.
``Obviously, I would like for it to continue, but that't not baseball,' he said. ``I made some bad pitches and they hit them.'
Indians manager Manny Acta knew Perez's streak had to end eventually.
``I'll take my chances tomorrow or whenever we play again after the All-Star break going into the ninth inning with Chris on the mound,' he said. ``This guy has been fantastic for us. He's human. That's going to happen.'
Shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, who will also represent the Indians in Tuesday night's game in Kansas City, also played a role in the loss. His sixth-inning error on a dropped throw with Cleveland leading 5-0 led to four unearned runs and got the Rays back in the game.
``We can't get on these two guys for one game,' Acta said. ``These guys are responsible for where we are today. They've carried us for a lot of games.'
The second-place Indians are 44-41 and trail Chicago by three games going into the break.
``I'm satisfied where we stand, but we must play better in the second half,' said general manager Chris Antonetti. ``It's just such a competitive division, very balanced.'
Shin-Soo Choo's solo homer in the eighth gave the Indians a 6-4 lead. Perez struck out Jose Lobaton to start the ninth, but then the trouble started. Light-hitting Will Rhymes belted a 2-2 pitch into the seats in right for his first homer of the season and only the second in his career.
``I was trying to come in and I left it over the plate,' Perez said.
Elliot Johnson followed with a single before Carlos Pena sent a drive into left-center. Michael Brantley, who was shaded toward right-center, missed on a diving attempt and the ball rolled toward the wall. Johnson scored the tying run and Pena ended up with a triple.
Ben Zobrist then singled home Pena with the go-ahead run before Perez got two strikeouts to end the inning.
All-Star Fernando Rodney worked the bottom half for his 25th save in 26 chances. Cleveland put runners on first and third in the ninth against Rodney, who got Casey Kotchman to ground into a game-ending forceout.
Joel Peralta (1-3) was credited with the win despite allowing Choo's homer.
The Rays earned a four-game series split with their fourth win in 14 games.
It was the fourth loss in 11 games for Cleveland, which got three hits apiece from Casey Kotchman and Michael Brantley.
Kotchman had three RBIs against his former team as Cleveland took a 5-0 lead against starter James Shields.
Indians starter Zach McAllister didn't allow a hit until No. 9 hitter Rhymes' one-out single in the fifth. Luke Scott and Desmond Jennings each had two-run doubles in the sixth, when the Rays scored four unearned runs.
Kotchman had an RBI single in the second, opened the fourth with his eighth homer, and singled home another run in the fifth. The first baseman hit .306 for Tampa Bay a year ago before signing with Cleveland as a free agent in February.
Johnny Damon, who also left the Rays to sign with the Indians this spring, tripled to open the third, just missing a home run with a drive off the top of the wall in right center. He scored when Shields threw the ball away trying for a pickoff. Damon trotted home on the error for a 2-0 lead.
Two outs later, Jason Kipnis doubled. He scored when Travis Hafner then hit a high bouncer that went under the glove of third baseman Jeff Keppinger for another error.
Kipnis singled to start the fifth and later scored on Kotchman's third hit for a 5-0 lead.
Cabrera's error opened the door for the Rays in the sixth.
Pena got the Rays' second hit, beating out a slow roller to second with one out. Zobrist followed with a grounder to Kipnis, whose throw to second was dropped by Cabrera. Scott and Jennings added two-run doubles.
NOTES: Cleveland put LHP Nick Hagadone on its minor-league disqualified list, one day after optioning him to Triple-A Columbus. Antonetti said Hagadone suffered ``a self-inflicted injury to his pitching hand' after leaving a game Friday. He won't get paid while on the disqualified list and may require season-ending surgery. ... The Indians begin a three-game series Friday in Toronto. RHPs Justin Masterson, Ubaldo Jimenez and Derek Lowe will pitch for Cleveland.
The Associated Press News Service
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