The Rays walked into tonight's game having had two days off, courtesy of Friday night's rainout, giving them a chance to be well-rested for this evening's game. After losing two of three to this year's potential Cinderella team, the Washington Nationals, the Rays dropped from first place in the division to third place. The Yankees had a 10-game winning streak, and the Red Sox had finally decided to play above-.500 ball, which should've given the Rays even more incentive to sweep the Phillies this series.
Unofortunately, it was not to be. Mental errors continued to kill the Rays in this one, as they let a game they should've won slip away.
James Shields had another shaky start, lasting only five innings while giving up five earned runs on seven hits, two of which were homers.
Shields started well, however, and Philadelphia's starter Kyle Kendrick was the one with the trouble early on in the ballgame. The Rays scored two runs in the second inning; two via an RBI double down the line by Jeff Keppinger, and one from an James Shields RBI groundout.
The bottom of the third is when the miscues started to hit, and the Phillies started to shift the momentum. After walking Kendrick—the starting pitcher—to start the inning, it was clear that Shields was upset and had lost his composure. Jimmy Rollins, the next batter, then hit a pop-up home run down the right-field line to cut the deficit to just one run.
More mental errors would come in the top of the fourth. With a runner on first and one out, Shields hit a single that deflected off third baseman Placido Polanco's glove into foul territory. Without looking to see that there were two Phillies standing at third base waiting, Keppinger (the runner) decided to round the base with his head down and go for third. Kepp was caught between the bases, and potentially ruined what could have been a big inning. The Rays would not score that inning.
In the bottom half, it appeared as if Shields may have re-found his groove. But after quickly retiring the first two batters, Shields gave up two straight singles and then a three-run blast by Juan Pierre to give the Phillies a 5-3 lead.
With all the momentum against them, the Rays failed to score off Philadelphia's 'pen in the following innings.
But more errors, this time more physical, put the Rays in an even deeper hole. In the bottom of the seventh, the Phillies would extend their lead to three with an unearned RBI single by Carlos Ruiz off of Brandon Gomes. Ben Zobrist's fielding error (7th of the season) was the cause of the run, which would end up being the difference in the game.
In the next two innings, however, the Rays' bats would come alive. A Sean Rodriguez RBI single in the eighth cut the Phillies' lead to two.
More damage came in the ninth, as the Rays would hand closer Jonathan Papelbon his first blown save of the season. With a runner on second in two out, the Rays would start a big-time ninth-innning rally. Following a Jose Lobaton walk, Keppinger smacked an RBI single to make it a one-run game. Then Brooks Conrad stepped up to plate for his second at-bat as a Ray. Conrad laced an RBI single into right to tie the game at 6-6.
Papelbon would stop the bleeding and the game remained tied for the Phillies in the bottom of the ninth. Jim Thome entered the game as a pinch-hitter (where he's hitless so far this season) against fellow lefty Jake McGee. Unfortunately for the Rays, Thome would win the hard fought battle and go yard to the opposite field to end the ballgame and cap another tough day of Rays baseball.
It was a "lucky homer" (something seen often at Citizen Bank Park), according to ESPN's Hit Tracker, that came off the bat of the 41-year-old Thome.
This loss can't really be blamed on the Rays' lack of hitting; they outhit the Phillies 14-9. They did blow good opportunities to score, though, although there's only so much you can expect when their two best hitters (Longoria and Joyce) and Luke Scott are out.
Keppinger had a career game tonight in his first game back from the DL, going a perfect 5 for 5 while also knocking in half (3) of the team's runs. Ben Zobrist also had a decent night, going 2-5 with two runs scored. Even James Shields, being forced to bat because of the National League stadium rules, got in on the scoring action, going 1-2 with an RBI.
The Rays lose ground in the division with this frustrating loss, as both the Yankees and Red Sox won their games Saturday. The Orioles were the only other team in the division that lost yesterday, as they remain 1.5 games over the Rays. The Yanks are now four games ahead of the Rays in first place, while Boston is now just 1.5 games behind Tampa.
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