ST. PETERSBURG — Baseball has become so sophisticated that the basic numbers aren’t necessarily what they seem.
But they should have added up to more for the Rays on Tuesday, as they got 17 men on base — five by hits, 11 by walks and one hit by a pitch — but, somehow, only two of them home in a frustrating 4-2 loss to the Blue Jays.
“Yeah, that was a tough one,” Rays catcher Mike Zunino said. “That usually plays into more, but tip your caps. They worked out of some innings there.
“But that’s the game. Continue to have at-bats like we did, hopefully continue to put pressure on. We seem to have a knack in the late innings, but really need that energy from the first on.”
The loss dropped the Rays’ American League-best record to 93-59 and delayed at least until Wednesday night their chance to clinch a third consecutive playoff berth. They still have a magic number of two and need to win their 3:10 p.m. game against the Jays, then have either the Yankees or Red Sox lose their night games.
The Rays also saw their East division lead over the Red Sox cut to six with 10 games to play and still have a magic number of five to clinch.
To be fair, the Rays failed early and late Tuesday.
With Jays starter Alek Manoah (who walked six in six innings) having a rare off day against them, they wasted multiple opportunities in the first two innings.
Brandon Lowe singled and Ji-Man Choi walked to open the first but got nowhere as the next three Rays made outs. The Rays got five men on in the second, including four straight with two outs, but only one made it home — on Lowe’s single — as Yandy Diaz struck out with the bases loaded to end the inning.
“We had Manoah before he got locked in with guys on base,” manager Kevin Cash said. “And other than Brandon’s big hit to drive the first run in, we couldn’t get anything going.”
Down 4-2 with two outs in the ninth, the Rays looked to be in position for another of their impressive comebacks as Choi, Diaz and Randy Arozarena drew consecutive two-out walks off Jordan Romano. But Joey Wendle, who had an impressive game defensively at shortstop, flied to right to end it.
For the night, the Rays left 12 on and went 2-for-10 with runners in scoring position while drawing 11 walks, tying a team record for a nine-inning game.
“If we’re getting those guys on base, I’ll bet over time our offense will find ways to get them in,” Cash said.
Though the Rays allowed only four runs, their pitching was not overly sharp, either.
Starter Drew Rasmussen was quite displeased after working five solid innings and allowing two runs, having given up one or none in his previous six.
“It wasn’t good enough, unfortunately,” Rasmussen said. “When I come out of the game, my goal is for us to have the opportunity to win. And when I came out, we were losing. Luckily, the offense was able to scratch another. But it sucks not feeling like I did my job properly.”
The score was 2-2 when the Rays turned to Nick Anderson in the sixth. Their former top reliever, in just his fifth outing after a months-long rehab of a spring elbow injury, was not sharp, allowing a leadoff walk, single and sacrifice fly to put the Jays ahead to stay.
“We’re seeing Nick a little inconsistent from outing to outing,” Cash said, noting the velocity was down a tick and command off.
Overall inconsistent pitching is a big part of the reason the Rays are 9-11 in September as they have had to make multiple adjustments. That included using scheduled Wednesday starter Michael Wacha to work the final three innings Tuesday to cover for a tired bullpen. Luis Patino now will start Wednesday.
2 To make American League playoffs
5 To win East Division
The combination of wins by the Rays and losses by the No. 4 team in the wild-card field (A’s) and the second-place team in the division (Red Sox).
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