Not everything went wrong for Michael Wacha and the Rays in Friday night’s 5-1 loss to the Mariners in Seattle.
In his first turn filling the spot opened in the Rays’ rotation by Tyler Glasnow’s elbow injury, Wacha was able to work into the fourth inning and build his pitch count to 77 pitches.
“I guess that would be the one positive,” he said.
Otherwise, it was pretty much a mess as the Rays dropped their fourth straight game (tying a season high) and falling to 43-28. They maintained a half-game lead in the American League East over Boston.
Wacha gave up four runs in the first inning as the Mariners rapped six hits — by placing the ball where the Rays weren’t positioned — and 11 (on nine singles) for the night. And his stuff wasn’t very sharp, as he struck out two and recorded just three swing-and-misses.
“It was not the start that I had really planned on,” Wacha said. “It was pretty frustrating. Looking back on it, I’ve got to make some better pitches. I felt like I was getting ahead, but my two-strike pitches just weren’t where they needed to be. Just got to do a better job of that, for sure.”
Manager Kevin Cash took a bigger-picture view, noting Wacha hasn’t been getting regular work. He has been used as a multi-inning opener with some relief work, not having thrown more than three innings or 48 pitches in a game since April 27. He didn’t get many breaks Friday, and Cash said that decisions are not going to be made based on one start.
“He competed really well; confident ‘Wach’ is going to do that,” Cash said. “We probably got beat around by the shift about as much as I can recall in a long time. They hit some balls hard, but certainly they had a good approach. They didn’t try to do too much, they found spacing, and they capitalized when guys got on base.
“I was happy to see ‘Wach’ get his pitches up a little bit. We all want to see him do well and he’s fully capable of doing well. Just tonight just wasn’t our night.”
The rest of the team didn’t do much to help.
The Rays scored a run in the first on singles by Manuel Margot and Austin Meadows, and a Yandy Diaz groundout, then got only three more hits the rest of the night. Seattle starter Yusei Kikuchi went a solid seven innings, using a cutter to keep the Rays off-balance and adding velocity as he went.
“Looked like he got better as the game went on,” Cash said. “He looked really tough from the side. We had the one run, we get two quick hits and then I don’t recall getting a hit for a while. It was just a tough night.”
The challenge now is to avoid it becoming a worse week. The Rays haven’t won since Monday in Chicago, when Glasnow left with the partial ligament tear and flexor strain that will sideline him at least two months.
“We’ve hit a stretch here, a little bit of a four-game patch now that’s not ideal,” Cash said. “But we’ve got two ballgames, certainly one (Saturday) that we can try our best to turn it around and salvage this road trip a little bit.”
After their 24-5 run, any losing streak must seem weird.
“Obviously, we’ve lost four in a row, but I think momentum is still there,” outfielder Brett Phillips said. “How we’re playing baseball, you watch us play, we’re never out of it. We had some unlucky outcomes — not (Friday), obviously, but the past two days before that (in walkoff losses).
“Baseball is baseball. That’s why we play 162. Come back out here (Saturday) and play as if we’re on a 10-game win streak. Nothing’s going to change.”
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