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Rays morning after: Bullpen mess was days in the making

 
Rookie Chih-Wei Hu, called up Tuesday morning didn't arrive at the stadium in Arlington, Texas, until after six and hadn't had a chance to get loose yet when he was summoned to replace Matt Andriese.
Rookie Chih-Wei Hu, called up Tuesday morning didn't arrive at the stadium in Arlington, Texas, until after six and hadn't had a chance to get loose yet when he was summoned to replace Matt Andriese.
Published May 31, 2017

The bullpen mess the Rays found themselves in Tuesday night started two days earlier.

Go back to Sunday, when starter Alex Cobb lasted only five innings in what, due to some later drama, turned into their 15-inning affair in Minnesota. Add in what we now have the benefit of hindsight to know was a bad idea to stick with Erasmo Ramirez after he was used to close out Sunday's game as the starter on Monday, and he lasted only 2 1/3 innings. Then factor in what happened Tuesday, as starter Matt Andriese felt something pull in his groin at the start of the second inning, forcing his early departure.

Which is how they ended up - thanks to third-inning homers by Daniel Robertson and Steven Souza Jr - trying to piece together enough pitching to protect a 4-2 lead.

Rookie Chih-Wei Hu, called up Tuesday morning to replace up-and-down Jose De Leon, didn't arrive at the stadium in Arlington, Texas, until after six and hadn't had a chance to get loose yet when he was summoned to replace Andriese, and did quite well to the get the Rays through the fourth.

"It's never ideal to call a guy into a ballgame when he had been here I think for probably an hour and hadn't even totally stretched out or anything,'' Cash said.

Not wanting to put that close a game in the hands of their other fresh arm - Hunter Wood, who had been called up, shockingly even to himself, from Double-A since it was his start day and none of the Triple-A pitchers on the 40-man roster were available for extended duty - Cash turned to some of the veterans who were used heavily on Sunday.

Tommy Hunter gave them two strong innings and an additional homer by Kevin Kiermaier extended the lead to 5-2. Still not comfortable with Hunter, Cash went somewhere he wasn't planning and called in Danny Farquhar, who was bad Saturday and good Sunday, while throwing 32 pitches and a season-high two innings.

Cash was concerned about using him given the heavy weekend duty, Farquhar said he knew after playing catch Tuesday afternoon he was fine.

The problem, as he gave up a three-run game-tying homer, was execution. Farquhar allowed a leadoff single, got two strikeouts, but then issued a two-out walk ahead of the blast by Elvis Andrus.

"Fatigue had nothing to do with it,'' Farquhar said. "I felt like I threw the ball great. It was a combination of the Rangers having great at-bats and then one bad pitch.''

With a 5-5 tie, Cash went next to usually reliable Chase Whitley, who had escaped much of the heavy weekend lifting, working just one inning on Sunday (after having a week off) and then facing one batter on Monday, but was still working for a third straight day.

Whitley finished the seventh and got an out to start the eighth, but then loaded the bases on a walk and two two-strike soft singles, setting the stage - after an unusual mound visit from Cash just to check on him - for three first-pitch swings that netted the Rangers four runs on a scorched single, a sac line drive and a two-run single.

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"It's on me because I couldn't put them away,'' Whitley said. "Two hits, I don't care if they were bloop hits, they were on two strikes, and that can't happen. So the whole things on me. ..

"Fatigue had nothing to do with it. It's lack of execution, lack of doing what the job is. And my job was to keep the game where it was, and I didn't do it.''

Knowing the predicament they were in, and will be in again tonight, with two more fresh arms to be added as Hu and Wood were sent back to the minors, Cash didn't point any blame.

"You're asking a lot of those guys,'' Cash said. "Really appreciate the way they stepped up for the team and gave everything they had, Tommy, Danny, Chase Whitley. In an ideal world those guys probably aren't asked to pitch today.''