CLEVELAND — The most common, and polite, word the Rays used to sum up their wild 7-6, 11-inning loss to the Guardians on Saturday night was “frustrating.”
Closer Pete Fairbanks, who let a one-run lead with two outs in the ninth get away in an odd sequence, used it five times just in answering the first question, and eight times overall.
“That’s a frustrating one,” he said. “That was a weird game all around.”
And manager Kevin Cash felt the same way after the bitter ending, as the Rays, who had rallied mid-game to go ahead, regained the lead in the top of the 11th only to see the Guardians rally against just-signed veteran Chris Devenski, filling in for the injured Jason Adam, and win it on a walkoff sac fly.
“Frustrating loss,” said Cash, who was ejected in the fifth inning. “I thought the guys played well. Effort was there. We did a lot of good things to come back. I thought we made some good pitches. They had some good at-bats. ... They just did the little things a little bit better than we did.”
There were multiple reasons for their frustration, as they dropped to 82-54, blew a second straight game when leading after six innings, saw their series win streak end at six and fell 2 1/2 games behind the American League East-leading Orioles, who won at Arizona.
Devenski, a 32-year-old right-hander signed Tuesday after his release from the Angels, was put in a tough spot to work the 11th, having last pitched in a major-league game July 15, when he strained a hamstring, and in a minor-league rehab game Aug, 24.
But with Adam headed to the injured list with an oblique strain (and lefties Jake Diekman and Colin Poche already used), Devenski was considered a better option than Kevin Kelly or Andrew Kittredge against Cleveland’s lefty hitters given his change-up heavy repertoire.
Cash acknowledged it was “not ideal” to use Devenski at that juncture in his first game, but said “we’re in September and it’s tied. We can’t get too picky about landing spots.”
Devenski said he welcomed the opportunity: “That’s part of the game. You’ve got to be ready at (any) moment, and I was ready to go and the results just didn’t go the right way.”
He started well in striking out Gabriel Arias, but lost a tough 10-pitch battle to Bo Naylor and walked him. That put runners on the corners as Miles Straw, who started the inning as the runner on second, had stolen third.
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Jose Tena singled to right off Devenski, scoring Straw and sending Naylor to third. Then Steven Kwan, who had delivered the tying run in the ninth, came through again with a fly ball to right of center that Jose Siri called off Luke Raley to catch, but threw well off the mark home.
Devenski seemed to find the Naylor at-bat the most, well, frustrating.
“I felt like Naylor battled pretty good,” he said. “He was fouling off some good pitches and tried to throw something else there 3-2 and I missed. Got that walk and then went back to execute my pitches. They get a base hit into rightfield and just battled and tried to get out of it, and unfortunately it didn’t go that way. But we have another game tomorrow.”
The Rays felt pretty good about their chances in the ninth.
Down 4-1 early, they got even on a three-run homer in the fifth by Christian Bethancourt, who went deep on his birthday for the second straight year and — after Cash got ejected for vehemently arguing a pitch clock violation against starter Zack Littell — went ahead with two outs in the sixth when Siri hit his 25th homer.
Fairbanks, whose only blown save in 19 chances was in mid-May, allowed a leadoff single to Will Brennan, then got two quick outs. But then Oscar Gonzalez — who ended the Rays’ 2022 season with a 15th-inning walkoff homer off Corey Kluber in Game 2 of the Wild Card Series — hit an odd 56-mph comebacker that glanced off Fairbanks’ glove for an infield single. Kwan then laced a single to left that scored Straw, who pinch-ran for Brennan, with the tying run.
Fairbanks was having a hard time explaining what happened on the Gonzalez ball.
“Very frustrating to come out on the bottom end, especially when it got prolonged by a 56-mph full swing that somehow hit me,” he said. “I don’t even know (where it hit me) to be honest with you. He swung as hard as he could and it didn’t go very far. And I think it hit my glove behind my back or something. I just tried to move because normally when something comes flying out at you, you think it would be a little harder than that.
“So, yeah, it was a real frustrating one.”
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