Just when you thought it was safe to watch the late innings again ...
After a great start by Edwin Jackson and good offensive work against Tigers ace Justin Verlander, including a huge three-run homer by B.J. Upton, the Devil Rays looked sharp through six innings Monday.
But then came some stop-us-if-you've-heard-this-before flat-out awful relief work by Gary Glover, and another of their embarrassing I-got-it, you-take-it defensive lapses, with a routine fly ball dropping in left-centerfield between Carl Crawford and Upton, in an ugly seventh inning.
And, of course, an obligatory frustrating end to what seemed a promising night with a 6-4 loss to the Tigers.
"I feel terrible for the team, and Jackson especially," Glover said. "He pitched a hell of a ballgame, and in a matter of two minutes I managed to dismantle the whole thing."
Much has been made of the revamped bullpen and the impact the improvements have had on the whole team. But after Jackson did so well, looking sharp over six innings and getting out of trouble when he had to, Glover provided absolutely no relief.
The Rays (42-69) led 4-2 when he came in and, after he allowed five consecutive hits in a span of eight pitches, trailed 5-4 when he left.
Both Glover and manager Joe Maddon said afterward he threw good pitches, but the Tigers - looking much more alive than they had in losing five straight and 13 of 17 - just took better swings.
"I thought he had really good stuff," Maddon said. "They just had some good at-bats right there. This team has been there and they're playing for something, and their cream did rise at the appropriate moment."
After getting a quick out, Glover gave up a homer to Sean Casey, a single to Magglio Ordonez, a triple to Carlos Guillen, a single to Ryan Raburn (the Durant High grad who was once drafted by the Rays) and a single to Mike Rabelo (the Ridgewood High and University of Tampa product).
And just when you wondered how much worse could it get ...
Omar Infante greeted reliever Grant Balfour with a single to load the bases with one out. Brandon Inge followed with a routine fly to left-center that looked just deep enough to allow Raburn to tag and score.
Upton glided over from center, but Crawford appeared lined up to make the catch. But Crawford backed off at the last minute, and the ball dropped in, making it 6-4 anyway.
Upton said he yelled to let Crawford know the runner on second was also tagging up. Crawford said he thought Upton was yelling that he had it. Both said the Comerica Park crowd of 39,289 was loud.
Maddon considered it "just miscommunication" and planned to speak to both, but the "teaching point" was that Upton should have taken it as he was moving in the direction of the throw and, being right-handed, had a better angle. The Rays have had to review this fundamental lesson before.
Crawford said he didn't see what the big deal was as the run would have scored anyway. "It didn't come down to us losing the game because of it," he said.
No, Glover took care of that.
Marc Topkin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. View his blog at blogs.tampabay.com/rays.