Thursday, April 26, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays blow late opportunity in loss to Rockies

DENVER — As has been the case often during their franchise worst run, the Rays did enough wrong to put themselves behind in Monday's game with the Rockies, starting with another rough Drew Smyly start.

But it was their failure when presented with a chance to right themselves — or at least get even — that stood out the most in the 7-4 loss.

After Evan Longoria opened the eighth with his second triple of the night to put the tying run on third, the Rays failed not once, not twice, but three times to get him home.

And, worse, they didn't even put the ball in play off reliever Jason Motte. Former Rockie Corey Dickerson struck out swinging then Logan Morrison and Steven Souza went down looking.

"Tough inning right there,'' Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "We've got to find a way to execute and get that run in. Obviously, that's the ballgame right there.''

The net result was another loss, the Rays' 25th in their past 29 games, and their 11th straight on the road. Residually, it was a bad start to the nine-game, 10-day road trip that takes them to the weekend before the Aug. 1 trade deadline, as they dropped to 35-57 in a game delayed 32 minutes at the start due to earlier rain.

Smyly was plenty bad on his own, allowing five runs on nine hits while working only five innings in what Cash called "a fairly inconsistent outing.''

That extended Smyly's personal losing streak to seven decisions and his winless streak to 10 starts.

At 2-11, Smyly is tied with ex-Ray James Shields for the second-most losses in the majors, behind teammate Chris Archer's 13. At 5.64, he has the highest ERA of any pitcher who has worked at least 85 innings.

"I just didn't pitch very well today,'' Smyly said. "I got behind a lot of hitters. It's hard to pitch when you're behind in the count.''

That was most illustrative in the fourth, with the score 1-1. Smyly opened with back-to-back walks, then fell behind 3-1 to Mark Reynolds. A single and a sac fly quickly made it 3-1.

And it got worse from there. With two outs in the fifth, Smyly gave up a single to Carlos Gonzalez then a two-run homer to Trevor Story, the 21st he has allowed on the season and 14th in his past 10 games.

"I wish I could take back the pitch to Story,'' Smyly said. "That was just a really bad changeup.''

Down 5-1, the Rays actually rallied to make in interesting, scoring three runs in the seventh. "I like the way the offense competed,'' Cash said. "They didn't give in, they kept coming back.''

With one on and one out, Tim Beckham laced a ball to right-center that went for an RBI triple. Catcher Luke Maile singled to make it 5-3. And pinch-hitter Nick Franklin — who would be optioned to Triple-A after the game — hit a smash through the infield that scored Maile.

Franklin swiped third but — foreshadowing the eighth — was stranded there as Logan Forsythe struck out and Kiermiaer grounded out against 0-wearing reliever Adam Ottavino.

Actually, the Rays had the same problem in the first inning, after Kevin Kiermaier, hitting second just for the day, walked and Longoria laced his first triple. But Brandon Guyer grounded a ball to third, and Longoria was thrown out at the plate, then Logan Morrison struck out.

The most damning was the eighth-inning fail, when Corey Dickerson -— in his return to Coors Field — went down swinging, then Logan Morrison and Steven Souza Jr. took called third strikes from Motte, the 34-year-old veteran who was throwing 93-95 mph.

"I think you saw Motte dial it up there,'' Cash said. "For the most past, he challenged us with a lot of fastballs. We just didn't make the adjustment and put the barrel on the ball.''

"He's definitely been a great closer for a long time,'' Souza said, "so he's got some good stuff. It''s not like it's just a slap up there trying to trick us. He's got an electric fastball.''

Still ...

For the night, that was three times the Rays had a man on third with less than two outs, and three times they had nothing to show for it.

"We've got to find a way to get those guys in, there's no doubt about it,'' Cash said. "The guys know that. They are going up there doing everything they can to get the big hit or the big fly, whatever it takes. It just didn't happen.''

The Rockies added on in the eighth, taking advantage of an replay challenge overturned call to extend the inning and a wild pitch by rookie reliever Dylan Floro to add two more runs.

Souza suggested they may be trying too hard given the extent of their travails.

"Everybody wants to win so bad, I think sometimes we're getting in those situations and we can see the finish line and we're pressing a little bit,'' he said. "Everybody is grinding. It's just not going out way right now.''

That's for sure.

Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected]. Follow @TBTimes_Rays.

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