Sunday, January 21, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Bullpen falters as Rays lose to Red Sox

BOSTON — The losses keep mounting for the Rays, the 7-4 defeat to the Red Sox on Tuesday their sixth in the past seven games and 16th overall, guaranteeing their worst opening month of the Joe Maddon regime.

So do the reasons for their failures, from the inconsistent offense to the second-tier starters in the rotation to Sunday's stunning defensive debacle. Tuesday it was back on the bullpen, relievers Brandon Gomes and Juan Carlos Oviedo teaming for a five-run sixth that pretty much doomed them after a solid five-inning start by Erik Bedard.

And what was Maddon, when he thawed out, thinking about the mess they're in?

"It makes me recall the infamous words and the sage advice of Winston Churchill: 'When going through hell, just keep on going.' That's what we're going to keep doing," Maddon said.

"It's baseball. It's going to come back to us. There were a lot of good things, a bad inning. We had a bad inning again. We had a bad inning tonight. We had a bad inning in Chicago. Bad inning. We've got to get beyond that. I have no issue with the preparation, the effort, the ability. All of that stuff is there.

"It's not our time right now. It's not our moment right now. But it'll come back to us. I really believe that. So just keep pushing, and it's going to be fine. It's always difficult. Every team goes through this. We're getting our little taste of it right now."

Bedard, making his third start, was actually pretty good, allowing just a run on a sac fly, though he pitched himself out of the game with 104 pitches through five. It was the 11th time in the past 15 games that a Rays starter didn't pitch more than five innings and the 14th time overall, matching Arizona for most in the majors.

"I'm feeling better, getting my pitch count up, getting my arm strength up and we'll go from there," Bedard said. "Hopefully it gets better."

And the hitters, when you factor in a two-run ninth, did okay, especially on a night with a first-pitch temp of 42 and a feels-like in the mid 30s.

But with Bedard done and the score 1-1, Maddon's calls to the bullpen were not good ones.

"I thought it was the right time to move it along, and it did not work out," he aid.

First was Gomes, fresh off his impressive three-inning outing Saturday. But he fell behind Mike Napoli and walked him, then had what he called a "non-competitive" matchup in walking Jonny Gomes on four pitches before getting one out.

Next was Oviedo, pitching for the third time in four nights and the fourth in six since coming off the disabled list. That was even worse as he left several changeups up and paid dearly.

Oviedo allowed RBI hits to the first three batters he faced at the bottom of the Boston order: a single by A.J. Pierzynski, a double by Will Middlebrooks and a two-run double by Jackie Bradley Jr. And after getting one out, he gave up another RBI double to Shane Victorino.

By the time they were done, there was a 5 posted on the Fenway scoreboard, yet another sign of the danger of not having starters going deeper and using the bullpen too much.

"We've given up too many big innings with 3-plus runs, and a lot of them are happening in that part of the game," Maddon said. "That's where we're letting games get away, at that moment. And it makes it really hard from the offensive perspective."

Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected]

 
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