TORONTO — The words that Jason Adam said on the mound in the eighth inning Monday night said everything you needed to know about how the game got away from the Rays.
The team’s best high-leverage reliever was a strike away from another high-wire escape act, having allowed the Blue Jays to get the tying run on base before retiring the dangerous duo of George Springer and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. A 1-2 count to American League Player of the Week Bo Bichette had gone full, when Adam made two mistakes.
First, opting to throw a slider when he wasn’t fully sure in his own mind it was the right pitch.
Second, throwing it where he did, as Bichette, the St. Petersburg Lakewood High product, was able to drive it over the leftfield fence, turning what was headed toward a feel-good win for the Rays into a crushing 3-2 loss.
Adam gritted his teeth, stepped back, slapped his glove and, at least twice, clearly said a word that belied his usual genteel manner on the mound.
“Yeah, I was really mad,” Adam said. “I kind of blacked out a little bit. I mean, one, I knew the weight of it, that I just potentially lost the game for the guys who battled so hard (Monday). So, that sucks.
“And two, there was some doubt in my mind about whether I should go changeup there, so that’s on me. At that point, I’ve got to step off — either step off and say, ‘Get convicted in the slider,’ or step off and say, ‘No, let’s go (with) something different.’ So, those ones hurt.”
As for his R-rated response?
“Yeah, sorry about that,” he said. “I hope they didn’t get that on TV.”
The loss was the third straight for the Rays, dropping them to 78-61 and third among the three wild-card contenders, 1/2-game behind the Mariners and Blue Jays. They face the Jays again twice on Tuesday, with a day-night doubleheader part of a five-games-in-four-days series.
“I think we’re all confident in the spot we’re in,” Adam said. “Baseball is unique that we play 162 games, so we’re not going to beat ourselves up too much about a tough loss. But we’re going to see where we need to make adjustments and come ready to take it to ‘em (Tuesday).”
With surprise Triple-A call-up Cooper Criswell giving them a solid start, retiring the first nine Jays and allowing one run while working into the fourth, the Rays took a 2-1 lead to the eighth, as rookie Jonathan Aranda and veteran Manuel Margot (thanks to Randy Arozarena’s hustle) drove in runs.
An inability to get more runs played into the frustrating ending.
“We’ve got to start to get some things going offensively,” manager Kevin Cash said. “We’re fully capable of doing that. I thought (Jays starter Jose) Berrios pitched well, but I’d like to think that we can have some better at-bats early on, try to find a way to put some more pressure on whoever’s out on the mound.”
Adam has been effective in just about every situation the Rays have put him in, not allowing even a hit in 42 of his first 61 appearances (.128 opponents average) or a run in 54 (1.26 ERA).
Which made Monday’s outcome more surprising.
“He sets the bar pretty high,” Cash said, ‘but it happens.”
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Bichette, who hit .500 (16-for-32) with five homers and 13 RBIs in his previous seven games, seemed even more fired up after being hit on the helmet by a Javy Guerra pitch in the seventh, which Bichette said “just scared me.”
That incident led to a retaliatory plunking of Rays catcher Francisco Mejia, warnings being issues by the umpires, and some heated words exchanged between the dugouts.
“It was nothing, really,” Cash said. “I think at the end of the day you’ve got two teams that are playing for a lot, (are) competitive, and tensions can get high.”
Bichette got the final say.
“I’m definitely focused,” he said. “I think the time of the year helps. A lot of big games, and we need all of them.”
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