ST. PETERSBURG – Montreal called.
Said there’s no sense rushing into this whole team-sharing plan.
I mean, could you blame the good folks of Quebec if they wanted to take a looksie at expansion or another major-league team? Or, heck, Arena Football?
Because watching the Rays lately has gone from frustrating to disappointing to practically painful.
The latest chapter on Saturday night included another hapless offensive showing, a familiar bullpen failure with two outs in the ninth, and a White Sox baserunner scoring the game-winner from first base on a slow grounder into rightfield.
The final result was a season-high fifth consecutive loss, this time with the Rays bowing to Chicago 2-1 in 11 innings in front of an announced crowd of 16,338 at Tropicana Field.
“It’s super frustrating,’’ said reliever Emilio Pagan. “I’m getting pretty sick and tired of saying we played okay, or made a good pitch, or made a good swing and things didn’t go our way. We’ve got to find a way to somehow fight out of this and come out on top.’’
You know, the Rays had this one. Were one out away from celebration and supper. But, of course, that only means they were at their most vulnerable.
This was the sixth time in the last 15 games Tampa Bay has lost when it was either tied or leading going into the seventh inning. This time, it was Pagan who yielded a two-out homer to James McCann on a slider down and away. McCann’s swing didn’t look powerful, and the ball barely cleared the wall, but the result was the same.
“Don’t get me wrong, he hit it well,’’ Pagan said. “But I definitely didn’t think it was going to be a homer. I turned around and saw Tommy (Pham) turn his back and I thought, 'You’ve got to be kidding me.’ It’s just super frustrating.’’
To add rosin to the wound, Rays centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier had to leave the game in the eighth after spraining his left thumb while diving into first base on an infield single.
Kiermaier’s departure meant Avisail Garcia had to move from rightfield to center, and infielder Mike Brosseau had to go into rightfield. And, of course, that eventually played a role in the loss.
Chicago third baseman Yoan Moncada, who led off the 11th with a walk against Adam Kolarek, was stealing second base when Jose Abreu hit a soft grounder while the Rays were in a shift.
The ball rolled through the hole where the second baseman would normally be playing, and Moncada kept rounding bases until he came all the way home.
“I was playing a little deeper for doubles coverage and with Abreu obviously having good opposite field power,’’ said Brosseau. “Looking back on it, maybe I was a step or two too deep. Because it felt like forever watching that ball slowly creeping toward me.’’
Of course, the Rays probably shouldn’t have been in that position in the first place. Nor should the bullpen have been asked to hold another one-run lead for three innings after Ryan Yarbrough’s second consecutive stellar performance, and Garcia’s 459-foot home run.
Tampa Bay’s offense has grown ridiculously impotent the past week in clutch situations. After going 0-for-8 on Saturday night, the Rays are now 5-for-57 (.088) with runners in scoring position going back to last weekend.
“You can see it on both sides of the ball. Pitchers are pressing to always put up zeroes and guys on offense are pressing to come up with the big hit,’’ catcher Mike Zunino said. “That’s when you see things like this happening. Guys scoring from first on a 12-hopper through the right side.
“We’re a really good group when we relax and everyone plays their own game that fits within this team. Eventually you get to a point where it turns around because one guy finally makes it turn around.’’
Meanwhile, the Rays fall another game behind Oakland in the wild-card race. Tampa Bay now trails the Athletics and Indians by two games each.
“We’ve got to find a way to come out on top,’’ Pagan said. “This is getting pretty bad, pretty quick.’’
John Romano can be reached at email@example.com. Follow @romano_tbtimes.