CINCINNATI — Of the series of unfortunate events that have befallen the Rays this season, Friday’s was one of the most extreme.
They lost a game on a walkoff balk.
Matt Wisler was called for the infraction on a 1-2 count with one out in the 10th inning, sending Cincinnati’s Mark Kolozsvary home from third base to give the Reds a 2-1 win.
It was the first time in their 25-season franchise history the Rays lost on a walkoff balk and the first time it has happened in any major-league game since the Dodgers lost at Seattle on Aug. 18, 2018.
“It feels tough to call that in that kind of situation,” Wisler said.
As the Reds started to celebrate and fireworks went off at Great American Ball Park, Wisler stood on the mound with his arms raised questioning what he did. Teammates looked on from the dugout in disbelief. Rays manager Kevin Cash ran out to ask for an explanation from the umpires, who talked with him briefly, huddled for a moment and then walked off. Balk calls are not replay-reviewable.
“(Wisler) was surprised, we were all surprised,” Cash said. “You don’t expect to end a ballgame like that.”
Wisler said the call was made on a move he does often, tapping his glove on his left leg to indicate he wants catcher Francisco Mejia to call a different pitch. Cash said home plate umpire Edwin Moscoso and second base ump Lance Barrett told him they felt Wisler flinched.
None of that made the Rays, who dropped to 45-38 despite another strong start from Shane McClanahan, feel any better.
“I feel like I’ve done that move a lot of times; I just tap my leg kind of when I kind of want a different sign,” Wisler said. “Obviously, it sucks the way we lost the game. Obviously with the way the guys pitched, it’s just unfortunate.
“I get that chance, obviously it’s not a guarantee that I get out of it, anyway. But I would like the chance to make the pitches and do it rather than have it done that way. If (the umpire) saw something, I get it. I just need to know if that’s a different rule, because I felt like I’ve done that quite a lot in my career, just tap my leg without moving any other part of my body.”
The Rays were in position to lose on the balk call because they didn’t convert a promising opportunity in the top of the 10th, after being quiet much of the night thanks to Reds starter Luis Castillo.
Josh Lowe led off with a hard single to right, sending Mejia, who started the inning as the runner on second, to third, where coach Rodney Linares made what Cash said was the right call to hold him.
Stay updated on Tampa Bay’s sports scene
Subscribe to our free Sports Today newsletter
You’re all signed up!
Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.Explore all your options
But Yandy Diaz, who earlier extended his career-high hitting streak to 12 games, swung at Joel Kuhnel’s first pitch and grounded sharply to short. Kyle Farmer threw home to nab Mejia.
The Rays challenged both the out call and that catcher Michael Papierski was illegally blocking the plate. Mejia, via team interpreter Manny Navarro, said he felt the Rays were right about both: “I thought I was safe originally, and I think the plate block rule wasn’t applied.” But the replay crew in New York disagreed, and the call stood.
Wander Franco then hit a soft liner to second that Farmer grabbed and doubled off Lowe, who Cash said “didn’t have the best read.”
McClanahan, who seems certain to be named to the American League All-Star team on Sunday, allowed just a two-out homer, on a 3-0 fastball, to Brandon Drury, and two other hits over six innings. He struck out eight but pitched himself out of the game by throwing 95.
He extended his American League-record streak to 11 straight starts of working six or more innings while striking out at least seven and allowing two or fewer earned runs.
But there was something odd that mattered more.
“It is bizarre,” Cash said of the walkoff balk. “I’ve never seen that before.”
• • •
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.