Rays miss a lot in losing to Angels

An inefficient night at the plate, a costly play not being made, and some rough relief work add up.
Angels designated hitter Shohei Ohtani celebrates after hitting a home run during the sixth inning against the Rays on Monday night in Anaheim, Calif.
Angels designated hitter Shohei Ohtani celebrates after hitting a home run during the sixth inning against the Rays on Monday night in Anaheim, Calif. [ ASHLEY LANDIS | Associated Press ]
Published May 10, 2022|Updated May 10, 2022

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Kevin Kiermaier sought out pitcher Jeffrey Springs during the later innings of the Rays’ 11-3 Monday night loss to the Angels to apologize.

On a night when the Rays offense missed repeated chances to score, it was Kiermaier missing a seemingly routine fourth-inning Shohei Ohtani fly ball he lost in the high sky that led to a momentum-shifting, lead-changing and game-deciding three-run homer.

“Springs was rolling at that point and it was a huge play in the game, huge momentum swing,” Kiermaier said. “If you can’t see the ball there’s not a whole lot you can do, but that was a tough one. And the game seemed to change after that play right there.”

By the end of the night, the Rays had lost a second straight after a six-game win streak and fell to 18-12. They had concerns about outfielder Manuel Margot, who left in the sixth inning with right hamstring tightness.

Their inefficiency at the plate cost them, as they were 1-for-16 with runners in scoring position and left 10 on.

“We we had some opportunities early to put the first runs up and we didn’t capitalize,” manager Kevin Cash said. “Our offense, I really think it’s fine. The timely hits just kind of eluded us.”

And the final margin got wide as the Angels piled on against debuting reliever Calvin Faucher in the eighth, including Ohtani’s first grand slam in the majors or Japan.

But the Kiermaier play was key.

The Rays were leading 1-0 at the time after Randy Arozarena’s first homer of the season. Mike Trout singled with one out in the fourth, then Ohtani lofted the fly ball Kiermaier said he lost as soon as it got above the Angel Stadium seats.

“You’re helpless out there,” he said. “You’re just looking up and hoping that you find something. I didn’t see the ball at all. Thought I was in a spot where it’d be coming down towards me and obviously I was way off. You’ve got to see the ball to be able to catch it. I didn’t see it at all.”

Brett Phillips raced over from rightfield — “I was hoping Brett Phillips did some crazy Superman catch to bail me out there,” Kiermaier said — but came up short on a last-second diving attempt.

This all mattered so much, because Anthony Rendon then lined to left for what could have been the third out. Instead, Jared Walsh got to the plate and blasted Springs’ 2-2 fastball over the centerfield fence for a 3-1 lead.

Springs, in his first outing since moving from multi-inning reliever into the rotation in place of demoted Josh Fleming, got off to a sensational start, retiring the first 10 Angels in order, four on strikeouts, before Trout’s single. As impressively, he was efficient in doing so, then gave up the three-run homer and was done after four, throwing 57 pitches.

“I felt good overall,” Springs said. “Obviously, fourth inning didn’t go quite like I wanted it to, but was one pitch away.”

Stay updated on Tampa Bay’s sports scene

Stay updated on Tampa Bay’s sports scene

Subscribe to our free Sports Today newsletter

We’ll send you news and analysis on the Bucs, Lightning, Rays and Florida’s college football teams every day.

You’re all signed up!

Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.

Explore all your options

Cash was more than pleased: “I thought Springs was awesome. I don’t think the stat line or the result shows how well he pitched.”

Joe Maddon’s team made it 6-1 in the sixth when Trout and Ohtani homered off reliever Jalen Beeks, the Angels first back-to-back blasts of the season.

The Rays rallied in the seventh to get within 6-3, had two on and used their last bench player, backup catcher Francisco Mejia, to pinch-hit for Kiermaier as the potential tying run, but he grounded out. The Angels then broke it open when Faucher allowed the first three hitters he faced to reach — single, walk, single, then walked Trout to force in one run and gave up the grand slam to Ohtani.

As much as Kiermaier took the blame for the loss, Springs wasn’t having it.

“He came in here and it was like, you know, he feels terrible,” Springs said. “Any pop-up in the outfield, our guys go get it. It’s unbelievable watching them. And that’s what I told him. I was like, ‘Dude, you’re gonna save me (and) the pitching staff way more runs than you cost us, I promise.’ It’s just one of the things.”

• • •

Sign up for the Rays Report weekly newsletter to get fresh perspectives on the Tampa Bay Rays and the rest of the majors from sports columnist John Romano.

Never miss out on the latest with the Bucs, Rays, Lightning, Florida college sports and more. Follow our Tampa Bay Times sports team on Twitter and Facebook.