ST. PETERSBURG — When the Rays analyze what went wrong in Thursday’s 6-4 loss to the Rangers at Tropicana Field, they should look beyond Adolis Garcia’s game-deciding two-run homer in the 10th inning.
Instead, look at the numerous wasted opportunities.
So even though runs were scored — finally — offensive inefficiency was the true culprit for Tampa Bay, which takes a three-game losing streak into Friday night’s opener of a weekend series at Yankee Stadium. The Rays (5-8) have lost eight of their past 11.
“We’re not making the most of the opportunities,’' said manager Kevin Cash, whose team stranded 12 against Texas and was 3-for-13 with runners in scoring position. “The opportunities have been tough to come by lately, but even the ones we do come by, we’re just not making the most of them, for whatever reason. We’ve just got some guys who are still kind of searching for that timing at the plate to do big things.’'
The Rays’ beleaguered bullpen, which entered the game ranked 29th in the majors (6.19 ERA), retired 15 of the 18 Ranger batters it faced before Garcia’s deciding blow off left-hander Cody Reed. The Rays used five relievers in support of left-handed starter Rich Hill.
“I made a bad pitch,’' Reed said of a slider up in the zone that Garcia slammed into the rightfield bleachers. “I’ve got to learn from it.’'
By then, Hill was long gone. But still, Hill said “this loss falls solely on me,’' blaming himself for not getting out of the fifth inning and failing to adequately preserve the bullpen in his uneven 88-pitch outing.
“We talk about results and getting results … that’s what this game is all about,’' said Hill, who allowed two home runs. “I need to do a better job of selecting pitches.’'
And the Rays, with their first three-game home losing streak since 2019, need to do a better job of producing runs.
They left runners in scoring position in the eighth and ninth innings.
After scoring the tying run, tying it at 4, they left the bases loaded in the seventh. That was a win for the sloppy Rangers, who walked four and committed two errors in the inning.
Facing right-hander Ian Kennedy (Texas’ sixth pitcher) — and keeping with the game’s theme — Rays pinch-hitters Willy Adames and Yoshi Tsutsugo were each called out on strikes in the 10th inning with a runner on third.
The original sin occurred in the seventh, though, when the Rays tied it on a wild play that featured two Rangers errors.
Left-hander Wes Benjamin, struggling mightily to find control after relieving starter Jordan Lyles, issued a one-out walk to Brett Phillips. After retiring Austin Meadows for the second out, Benjamin walked Randy Arozarena.
With Brandon Lowe at the plate, Rangers catcher Jose Trevino tried to nab Phillips leaning off second, but the throw went into centerfield. As Phillips raced for third, the throw by Leody Tavares glanced off a sliding Phillips, who alertly bounced up and headed for the plate, sliding headfirst to score the tying run.
From there, though, the Rays could not tack on. Lowe walked, and the Rangers turned to right-hander Brett de Geus, who issued a four-pitch walk to Yandy Diaz to load the bases. But Joey Wendle struck out.
“Ideally, you’ve got to find a way to get a couple more (runs) across,’' Cash said. “We were fortunate to get that one. Their pitchers made great pitches throughout the series. Any time there was pressure, it seemed like they got that much better. We probably did a little bit of the opposite.’'
Nick Solak’s two-out homer put the Rangers up 1-0 in the second, but Meadows equalized things with a third-inning RBI single. That inning fizzled, however, as the Rays couldn’t muster anything more with two runners on and one out. Arozarena flied out, and Lowe popped out.
The Rangers took a 3-1 lead in the fourth on Charlie Culberson’s two-run homer. Hill had an 0-2 count on Culberson, who was granted time just as the pitch was released. Culberson gathered himself and homered on Hill’s next offering.
The Rays tied it on Mike Brosseau’s two-out, two-run homer in the fourth. After Solak provided the go-ahead run with a two-out RBI single against reliever Andrew Kittredge in the fifth, the Rays offered their seventh-inning hitless counterpunch.
In the ninth against Rangers reliever Josh Sborz, Diaz drew a two-out walk and Wendle singled him to third. On the first pitch, Manuel Margot squared to bunt while apparently trying to squeeze home the winner, but he popped it back. Margot swung through the next two pitches and the game headed to extra innings.
Cash said the bunt was Margot’s idea.
“That was with two outs, and he’s on his own,’' Cash said. “He has been a good bunter. If he feels there’s an opportunity there with the third baseman deep enough to drop one down and pick up a run, go ahead. We wouldn’t put a squeeze (on in a two-out situation).’'
After dropping four of their past five at home, the Rays are feeling squeezed.
“It’s hard to feel encouraged with anything right now,’' said Cash, whose team is three games below .500 for the first time since June 24, 2018.
On to New York.
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