The Rays’ all just wasn’t quite enough

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The Rays used 22 of their 25 players in Tuesday’s loss, and they were one inning away from turning to their Game 5 starter. Still, no matter how much Joe Maddon maneuvered, there was no outgunning the Red Sox this week.

It was plenty close. The Rays got the break they needed in the second inning, when Stephen Drew’s near-three-run double was instead turned into an inning-ending double play by a leaping James Loney. With Jeremy Hellickson and Jamey Wright done after two, Maddon relied on lefties Matt Moore and Alex Torres to hold the fort for the late-game relievers. The Red Sox, better set up to face a righty with Daniel Nava, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Stephen Drew hitting consecutively, couldn’t get a rally going.

Alas, the Red Sox were able to outlast the Rays, even after Tampa Bay scored first. I was critical last night when Sox skipper John Farrell used Craig Breslow and Junichi Tazawa for just two batters apiece, but that meant Boston’s big three was fresher tonight than the Rays’ top three of Jake McGee, Joel Peralta and Fernando Rodney. It was Peralta the Red Sox broke through against, though the two runs were charged to Peralta. Rodney allowed another in the ninth.

Meanwhile, Breslow, Tazawa and closer Koji Uehara combined to allow one hit and strike out seven in 3 1/3 scoreless innings for the Red Sox. Breslow was particularly outstanding, fanning four in a row and getting five outs in all.

Give the Rays credit, though. It was a terrific effort, with nine pitchers throwing nine innings. Had it gone to the 10th, David Price was coming in, and the Rays just would have figured out Game 5 later.

Now it could be another harsh offseason for the Rays. Attendance didn’t increase as hope, so the payroll probably won’t add much from the usual $60 million-$65 million. Price’s salary will jump from $10 million to $15 million or so in arbitration, which could mean he’s made his final start for the club. James Loney figures to be too expensive to retain, so the Rays will have to dip back into the bargain bin at first base again. Rodney also seems certain to exit, as will several role players.

Still, even without Price, the Rays could put out a rotation of Alex Cobb, Moore, Jeremy Hellickson, Chris Archer and Jake Odorizzi, and Price will likely bring back another Wil Myers-type prospect to integrate into the lineup, plus perhaps another young pitcher or two. Despite the modest payroll, there will be no writing off the Rays anytime soon. Price or no, they’ll be back to scare the pants off the Red Sox and the rest of the AL’s heavy hitters again next season.

Jonny Venters is still pitching

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Lefty reliever Jonny Venters was among a handful of players the Rays signed to minor league contracts, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports.

Venters, 32, hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2012 and has logged just 27 2/3 innings in the minors in the meantime due to a continuous battle with his elbow. According to David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Venters has undergone four — four! — Tommy John surgeries.

When he was healthy, Venters was a fearsome late-game option for the Braves. He posted a 1.95 ERA with 93 strikeouts in 83 innings in 2010, and a 1.84 ERA with 96 strikeouts in 88 innings in 2011. His first-half performance in 2011 earned him a spot on the National League All-Star roster.

Venters has spent the last two years in the Rays’ system and he’ll try to make it a third.