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Rays’ home winning streak ends quietly

Rays' Mallex Smith watches his pop fly that is caught to end the seventh inning with the bases loaded. [JIM DAMASKE | Times]
Tuesday 11 September 2018 22.22

ST. PETERSBURG — The sound of silence was stunning in the Rays clubhouse after Tuesday's 2-0 defeat without the E-40 rap that had become a sound track over the last month as they'd put together a streak of winning 12 straight home games.

"It is a little weird,'' manager Kevin Cash said. "But, you know what we can start another one here, we can get going. The guys have played really, really well.''

Certainly, he's right. Not only had the Rays posted the dozen W's at home, but they'd won eight of their last nine and 17 of 20.

#Rays Glasnow, on his bounce back outing: pic.twitter.com/2G69HGWdCd

— Marc Topkin (@TBTimes_Rays) September 12, 2018

But also, the clock is ticking and the margin for losses dwindling. If the Rays are serious about their long-shot chances of catching Oakland in the race for the second American League wild-card — the merit of which is another conversation — they really can't afford to lose again. Not often anyway.

Tuesday's loss to the Indians, combined with the A's win in Baltimore, left the Rays 8½ games back with only 18 to play. If the A's go 9-8 in their remaining games, the Rays have to win out to tie. So with the A's coming to the Trop for a weekend series, the Rays obviously need to be as close as they can to make it matter.

Fortunately, they will have the right man on the mound for Wednesday's matinee, their ace and lead playoff pusher, Blake Snell.

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"I really think this team can do it,'' he said Tuesday. "I think we can prove a lot of people wrong. Just got to keep playing the baseball we've been playing.''

Tuesday's loss was a result of a break in that pattern, in that they had been swinging big bats, averaging 6.33 runs over the previous 18 games.

But they were shut down and shut out Tuesday by Shane Bieber, with help from two reliever, limited to four hits. Their best opportunity came in the seventh when they loaded the bases on a double and two walks, but Mallex Smith popped out, and they couldn't stir up any of the ninth-inning magic that saved them on Monday.

"You've got to give credit when you run into a little bit of a buzz saw on the other team's mound; that's what's going to happen,'' Cash said. "But couldn't be more impressed with the way that we continue to show up and compete.''

The good news for the Rays (79-65) was the bounceback performance by starter Tyler Glasnow from his brutally bad last outing. Improving on allowing seven runs while lasting less than an inning wasn't going to be hard, and he did way better, working seven solid innings without a walk, and allowing six hits, throwing only 90 pitches, completing two innings with six each.

The problem was that two were solo home runs, a shot by Yan Gomes on a hanging curveball in the fifth and a 422-foot blast on a fastball Edwin Encarnacion destroyed in the sixth.

"I thought Tyler was outstanding,'' Cash said. "Really impressed with the way he bounced back.''

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Glasnow was relieved, if not pleased. But while he had better command of the curveball and slider that was lacking last week in Toronto, the velocity on his fastball was down a bit into the mid 90s.

"Just one of those days. I don't know,'' he said.

The Rays are going to need some help in catching Oakland, and it looked Tuesday like they might get it from old friend Alex Cobb, who started for the Orioles against the A's. But after posting two scoreless innings, Cobb was forced out due to recurrence of a blister issue (the same one that kept him from pitching Sunday against the Rays) and then the Baltimore bullpen promptly gave up the three runs that made the difference in Oakland's 3-2 win. (Also of note, for any of you who were uber optimistic, Tuesday's loss also eliminated the Rays from the American League East race.)

Having lost at the Trop for the first time since Aug. 8, the Rays are buoyed by having Snell on the mound.

Snell has arguably the best base numbers of any pitcher in the majors at 18-5, 2.06 and is even better under the tilted Trop roof, 9-1, 1.23 in 12 starts, allowing more than one earned run only once, in his last outing (and on his final pitch).

The Rays, understandably, have a sense of confidence when he is on the bump.

"Pretty high,'' Cash said. "It's tough to dispute that. Blake, we talk about what he's done this year, we use that word "ace" or "elite." Anytime you have that type of feeling when a guy takes the mound it's a good feeling for the offense and the defense. …

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"There's a confidence, there's an air about him when he takes the mound, and we feel like we've got really good chances with him on the mound.''

Really, really good.

"When he pitches, it's not only the confidence he brings to us, it's the show we're going to see that day,'' outfielder Carlos Gomez said. "When you see the season he has put together this season, you see how talented he is. You see every time a guy going to the mound and striking out double digits almost every time that he pitches. Listen and you hear the other players saying, I can't wait until you change pitchers, I can't see the ball, that guy is unbelievable. That is impressive. … We feel (confident) when he's on the mound — imagine how they feel.''

Contact Marc Topkin at mtopkin@tampabay.com. Follow @TBTimes_Rays.

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