ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays got another impressive start Friday from Shane McClanahan, and their mostly usual strong bullpen work. They got a tying clutch hit from Randy Arozarena and created several other opportunities.
But they lost — stop us if you’ve heard this before — because they can’t stop making outs on the bases.
The final score was 3-2 Royals in 10 innings, the winning run coming on a bunt and a sac fly (and thus without a hit), and the loss dropping the Rays to 63-55 and into the third and final American League wild-card spot.
The story was the three Rays players getting tagged out in key situations:
• Harold Ramirez picked off second with the bases loaded, two outs and top RBI man Arozarena at the plate in the third inning.
• Taylor Walls thrown out at second trying to stretch a one-out single in the ninth.
• Roman Quinn, after failing to advance from second on a groundout, caught stealing third in the 10th.
A frustrating loss?
“Yeah it is, for sure,’’ Walls said. “We had a lot of opportunities to score runs and just didn’t. That one inning was the only time we had (runs). And just made a few mistakes on the bases, I guess. They made a few good plays. We made a few mistakes. Can’t do much about it but look forward to (Saturday).’’
It was even more frustrating, Walls said, because of how they had rallied to tie in the sixth off a very tough Brady Singer and how well McClanahan pitched over seven innings. The Rays ace allowed his only two runs in the third, a first-pitch homer by Bobby Witt Jr. following a walk to MJ Melendez after being ahead 1-2 in the count.
Except for that sequence, McClanahan said it was his best outing in a while, as he allowed two hits and three walks while striking out eight.
“I thought I threw the ball really well,’’ he said. “Obviously, I wish I could have that (home-run pitch) back, but I think I’m in a good spot. I think I’m getting back to where I used to be. ... To tell you the truth, for the first time in I guess a couple starts, I felt like myself. All four (pitches) I felt like could have been used at any time.’’
But that all went to waste because of what the Rays did on the bases. They added to the majors-most totals in being caught stealing (31 times) and running into outs in other ways (56). And they were picked off for the ninth time, which is above the league average.
Manager Kevin Cash said he couldn’t fault Walls and Quinn for trying to be aggressive in situations that could have decided the game. For Ramirez, not so much.
His was the most egregious mistake because there was no reason for him to be venturing that far off second in that situation.
Cash said that the Royals made a good play but that Ramirez “probably got a little too far off. Two outs right there, with Randy, we like our chances. No guarantee, but ideally we see Randy hit.’’
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Ramirez didn’t really have an explanation for why he was off the base, except that he was “surprised” the Royals made the play. He was more frustrated that the call was not overturned on replay review, especially because he said Royals second baseman Nicky Lopez told him he didn’t tag him.
“I was just getting really mad because I know he missed me. … I don’t know what they (saw) in the video,’’ Ramirez said. “Right after, he told me, ‘I don’t know why he called out.’ ‘’
Walls — who said he was actually safe but called out for coming off the base — had solid reasons for trying to get to second, where he could score the winning run on a hit.
He noted Melendez, a rookie who was playing leftfield, is primarily a catcher; was on the Trop outfield turf for the first time; and with the ball slicing toward the line was going to have to throw across his body.
“The throw would have to be perfect — which it was, and I still beat it,’’ Walls said. " I just couldn’t really hang on to the bag. I’m not really mad at the decision there.’’
Quinn blamed himself for an overall bad night, as he also struck out four times. He said he first made a bad read on the ground ball that Yandy Diaz hit to shortstop in the 10th, and thus a bad decision not to go to third on the play. Then he said he got a bad jump trying to steal third and was nabbed on a perfect throw by catcher Salvador Perez.
“I just wanted to get to third, give us a better chance of putting the ball in play and me scoring,’’ Quinn said. “Obviously that was a bad decision. Got in my head a little bit.’’
It was that kind of night.
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