ST. PETERSBURG — Winning close games has been a strength of the good Rays teams of the past.
Not so far this season, especially lately.
The Rays head into play Friday having played nine straight games decided by two or one runs — tying a franchise record and their longest such streak since a nine-game run in April 2007. They are just 2-7 in this year’s stretch, though five of those losses are to the majors-best Yankees.
Mistakes — big and small, of omission and commission — usually have cost the Rays, whether in the field, on the mound, at the plate or on the bases.
“We just gave them too many opportunities,” shortstop Taylor Walls said after Wednesday’s 5-4 loss to the Yankees. “Especially teams like that, whether it’s the errant throw I made and rushed it, leadoff guys getting on base right away, there’s plenty more. ...
“We gave them too much of an advantage to start their innings off. When we had chances to get out of it, we gave them another chance and they took advantage of it. That’s what it boils down to.”
Added infielder Isaac Paredes, via team interpreter Manny Navarro: “We’re going to try to continue to work and win those games. It’s the little things that need to happen in order to be able to win it. They’re also trying to beat us but I think if we keep on fighting, I think we’ll be able to compete against them.”
Broader, the Rays are 19-20 overall this season in games decided by two or fewer runs, and 13-14 in a one-run games (matching the most in the majors). The Blue Jays also have played 27 and are 17-10.
Adding to their woes, having had to restock their bullpen with inexperienced relievers as injuries pile up, the Rays have blown leads in nine of their 32 losses. That, too, was the case Wednesday, when they let a 4-1 advantage in the sixth inning get away.
“We’re pitching some young guys in some situations that can get a little sticky,” manager Kevin Cash said. “They’re going to be better for it. It just stings a little bit in the moment.”
Bullpen depth added
The Rays added some bullpen depth Thursday by reacquiring right-hander David McKay from the Yankees for cash considerations. McKay was assigned initially to Triple-A Durham and placed on the 40-man roster, with outfielder Manuel Margot shifted from the 10- to 60-day injured list to make room.
McKay, 27, signed with the Rays in mid-March, but in early April exercised an assignment clause in his contract (requiring placement on the 40-man roster) and was traded to the Yankees. He spent most of this season at Triple-A, pitching 17 times for the RailRiders (3-0, 2.91) and twice for the Yankees (0-0, 0.00), before being designated for assignment Tuesday. He missed the 2021 season following hip surgery, pitching previously in the majors for the Mariners and Tigers.
The Pirates are making their first visit to Tropicana Field since 2014. … Lefty Jeffrey Springs starts for the Rays coming off a Saturday outing in Baltimore (four runs, seven hits, 4 1/3 innings) that was the worst of his eight starts since moving into the rotation May 9. … Wander Franco (right quad) was 1-for-3 (double) with two walks and played nine innings at shortstop Thursday for Durham at Jacksonville. He is scheduled to play again Friday, with the potential to rejoin the Rays Saturday or Sunday.
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