Friday, May 25, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays lose to Red Sox in 10 innings

BOSTON — The way the Rays lost Saturday's 2-1 10-inning contest to the Red Sox was interesting enough:

An errant throw by catcher Jose Lobaton forced them into a five-man infield with Jacoby Ellsbury on third, then Shane Victorino beat them with a perfectly placed ground ball that shortstop Yunel Escobar snagged but couldn't make a throw home on.

"Just very unfortunate for us," manager Joe Maddon said.

But it was what went into their failure to win the game that was more compelling and — with the warning label of small sample size through 10 games (4-6) — most concerning:

A repeated failure to convert opportunities — 0-for-11 with runners in scoring position — leading to questions about Maddon's unconventional strategies and the selfishness of some of their hitters.

"We have to really start to become unselfish," third baseman Evan Longoria said. "Even if it's the 2-3-4 guys in the lineup, if we're not producing runs, if you're not up there swinging the bat hot, hitting the ball out of the ballpark or driving the ball in the gap and producing runs that way, then it might be time to start thinking about doing the little things that we've done to be successful — just moving the guy, trying to make a conscious effort to hit the ball the other way or lay down a bunt, whatever it is.

"We've talked about from the beginning how we're not a team that can rely on a three-run home run every night. Again, look at the score (Saturday). One run would have been the difference in the game in the ninth inning."

The ninth was the most glaring of three innings in which Maddon eschewed somewhat traditional bunt situations, sticking to his belief that "the bunt is an overrated play."

With the score 1-1, Longoria and Ben Zobrist walked, putting pinch-hitter James Loney at the plate against Koji Uehara, with Escobar and Ryan Roberts next. Maddon said he felt strongly — and had no second thoughts after the game — about letting Loney swing away, though Loney struck out looking and the next two popped out.

"Loney was the best shot there," Maddon said. "The guys hitting afterward are not really tearing the ball up right now."

Maddon said any criticism is "outcome-based" because if Loney had delivered a hit, it would have been the right move, and it's not certain Loney would have gotten a bunt down, and if he had, if Escobar or Roberts would have gotten the run home.

"For that group out there that wants people to bunt all the time, you don't know the outcome when you choose to do that," Maddon said.

The Rays had a similar chance to start the 10th when catcher Jose Molina legged out — yes, legged out — a double. Maddon, who started Matt Joyce against tough lefty Jon Lester in hopes of shaking him from a 2-for-19 skid since his April 3 walkoff homer, declined to bunt then, too, wanting to Joyce to swing.

Joyce did, at the first pitch from Junichi Tazawa, and lined out to left, failing to move pinch-runner Kelly Johnson. That chance was officially wasted when Desmond Jennings popped out and Sam Fuld grounded out.

Joyce — hitting .148 after an 0-for-4 — said the outcome was frustrating. Longoria suggested it could have been different.

"It depends on how (Joyce) is feeling," Longoria said. "If Joe doesn't put the bunt sign on, then you can't fault him for swinging. Obviously, you'd either like to see him roll the ball over (to the right side) or take it into his own hands and lay down a bunt or get a base hit. If he gets a base hit, nobody's talking about it; the situation's different. Again, those are things that if we continue to go the way that we're going, guys are going to have to do themselves. That's simple enough."

Maddon said the "true issue" is the bigger picture, the failure to get the runs home. In a way, so did Longoria.

"If we want to compete in this division and this season in general," he said, "we're going to have to find a way to push across more than one run."

 
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