CLEVELAND — As Kevin Cash watched from the dugout Saturday, many things were crossing his mind.
At times, he wondered how many other games in postseason history had ever gone scoreless as long as the one unfolding in front of him. At others, how could his Rays not have scored yet, going inning after inning, 15 in all, without getting a runner home.
“We said that a lot,” Cash said. “All right, now. We’re going to do it now.”
But the Rays never did in a game that after the 12th inning became the longest scoreless postseason game ever.
And after the Guardians finally managed to score — Oscar Gonzalez homering off Corey Kluber to open the home 15th — the Rays won’t be playing any more this season.
With the 1-0 walkoff loss, the Rays were swept out of the best-of-three Wild Card Series by the Guardians, who will advance to face the Yankees.
The Rays will head home, disappointed to be ousted in their first round of postseason play for the second straight year.
“It’s very difficult,” shortstop Wander Franco said, via team interpreter Manny Navarro. “As soon as the ball got hit, you just felt all the energy kind of get sucked out.”
“It’s tough,” added outfielder Manuel Margot, also via Navarro. “You put in all the effort, but sometimes you don’t think you put in enough effort. It happened pretty quick so what we accomplished hasn’t really sunk in yet.
“But we were hoping to go a little further. Now we’ve just got to prepare for next year and hopefully advance further.”
As was the story for much of the season, in which they overcame a slew of injuries to key players and inconsistent performances from others to win 86 games and the third wild card spot, the Rays pitched extremely well but didn’t hit enough to take advantage.
In Saturday’s nearly five-hour marathon, they managed to get only three runners as far as third base, posting just six hits and five walks in 54 trips to the plate, striking out 20 times. For the two games, they scored one run (on a home run), had nine total hits, 29 strikeoutss and were 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position, leaving 11 on.
“Yeah, it’s frustrating, no doubt,” Cash said. “We just could not get anything going offensively, a bunch of strikeouts. They pitched really, really well. I’d like to think that we could have some better at-bats.
“But this two-game series you saw about as good a pitching as you’re going to see. On the other side, I’ll speak for our club, we’re capable of more. We just couldn’t get going.”
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As much as the Cleveland pitchers earned the credit, Cash said the Rays hitters deserved some blame.
“I saw guys trying to do too much,” he said. “There was just too much, we were looking for, I felt, the three-run homer with nobody on base. When you take that mindset against good pitchers, they can kind of sit you down.”
Margot said it was “definitely frustrating” and somewhat concurred with Cash.
“I think we might have been trying too hard, but I don’t know,” he said. “If you look at the whole year, we had trouble advancing runners and moving runners along all year.”
As their pitchers — eight in all, starting with a solid five innings from Tyler Glasnow and until Kluber’s first pitch of his third inning — piled up zeroes, the Rays failed to convert in the few chances they had.
“It was tough,” Franco said. “We’re out there with our tongues out, tired, but we tried to do everything we could.”
They had two on and two out in the sixth inning and Harold Ramirez flied out. They had speedy Vidal Brujan on second with one out in the 10th, but Margot grounded out and, with Brujan on third, Francisco Mejia lined out.
They had runners on the corners in the 12th when Jose Ramirez made a nifty grab and great throw to first to just nab Margot, the call withstanding replay review. “A tremendous play,” Margot said.
Franco made a mistake on the bases in the 14th, not breaking to second after a throw that turned into an inning-ending double play. “I wasn’t really sure what happened,” he said.
Then they had their best chance in the 15th, Brujan on third and Margot on first with one out against Sam Hentges, needing to just put a ball in play.
“Got to move the baseball,” Cash said.
But Mejia went down swinging, then Jose Siri — who had a brutal day, 0-for-6 with five strikeouts — did the same. “Nobody wants to strike out in a situation like that,” he said. “Nobody wants to get out.”
In the end, the Rays’ chances all added up to nothing.
“Look, when you’re in a 0-0 ball game and you feel like you’re getting closer, they’re all frustrating, equally frustrating,” Cash said. “No one sticks out from the other. So, yeah, frustrating is a good word.”
For the day. And for the season that is now over.
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