Friday, November 24, 2017
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays blow lead in 9th, lose to Jays

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TORONTO

The routine has become stunningly commonplace by now — the frustrated reaction followed by the long walk, lowered heads, sullen clubhouse and generic answers laced with requisite optimism.

The Rays blew another lead and lost another game they looked to have won Wednesday, ending what had been a good road trip in a terrible way, a 4-3 10-inning loss to the Blue Jays.

It would seem amazing, only it has happened too often to be, the third game they've lost this season when leading in the ninth, the seventh when leading from the seventh inning on.

And, as frustrating as it is to watch, consider that manager Joe Maddon said there isn't anything they can do to fix it but hope it gets better.

"We've got to keep putting the guys out there at the appropriate times and wait for it to work," he said. "There is no other way to do it. There's no other options. This is the way it has to work. And you've got stay with it and show support."

Wednesday's blowup was a team effort, as they fell to 24-22 despite an impressive eight-inning start by Jeremy Hellickson and a pair of clutch ninth-inning hits by Evan Longoria and James Loney to take the lead.

First, Fernando Rodney blew the save, his fourth in 13 chances, giving up a tying homer to Jose Bautista to start the ninth on a full-count fastball that ran in as he planned.

"When you have a type of hitter like that, like Bautista, and you make a good pitch and they hit your best pitch, there's nothing you can do," Rodney said.

Then Cesar Ramos and Kyle Farnsworth teamed to lose the game in the 10th, putting two Jays on — one on a squibber Ramos couldn't do anything about, the other on a walk to Mark DeRosa he obviously could have — and Farnsworth gave up the winner on a broken-bat opposite-field single on an 0-and-2 off-the-plate fastball to Bautista.

"I made a real good pitch, shattered his bat and he hits a little bloop over to rightfield, which he rarely hits the ball that way," Farnsworth said. "So I don't know. … It's one of those days."

Maddon didn't have better answers.

He had been trying to mix and match with what he has, challenged with juggling the workloads and consistently inconsistent performances of just about every member of the bullpen. Further complicating Wednesday's moves, he said, was having to work around the pitcher being in the batting order since he gave up the DH to put Longoria at third for defense.

Still, there were questions. Why not bring Joel Peralta back for the 10th after he threw eight pitches to finish the ninth? Because of cumulative workload. Why have the lefty Ramos face the right-handed DeRosa? Because he actually considered it a favorable matchup. Why go to Farnsworth rather than Josh Lueke, whom he entrusted in a key situation Monday (though with bad results)? Lueke had already warmed up too much. And why not walk the dangerous Bautista — who earlier homered off Hellickson — with a base open and have Farnsworth face (the also dangerous) Edwin Encarnacion with the bases loaded? Because "that's a tough position to put your pitcher in" and he preferred Farnsworth pitch Bautista carefully.

Bottom line, Maddon said: "The whole group has not been lock-down more recently, so you just try to stay with the formula. We've made some adjustments recently. We've tried different things. We've got to get them all back to where they have been, man. It's as simple as that."

They're just not used to it being so difficult.

"There's no question we've been spoiled here for a long time so, sure, the expectations are always higher when you've been that good in the past," Ben Zobrist said. "I think realistically every team's bullpen is going to go through a rough patch. That's just something they're working through right now."

Rodney allowed, "It's very tough," but said they remain confident.

Farnsworth said they have to be.

"You've just got to keep on going," he said. "These days are going to come and hopefully, eventually, we're going to come out of it. … The talent is certainly down there. We've done it before. We just have to keep our heads up and just keep battling and just keep going at it."

Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected]m.

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