Monday night pretty much summed up how this entire season has been so far for the Rays. Despite having one of baseball's best pitching staffs and a bullpen that is supposed to be strong, Tampa Bay can't seem to hold a lead this year. The 'pen currently owns an ERA of 4.80, which is the third worst in all of baseball.
The offense, however, has been adequate, but the pitching simply isn't getting the job done late in games. It's starting to feel exactly like 2009 for the Rays, when the case was very similar.
Starting for the Rays was Jeremy Hellickson against southpaw Mark Buehrle for Toronto. The first runs of the game didn't come until Tampa's seven-run explosion in the bottom of the third.
All of the six first batters to face Buehrle that inning reached base, which included an RBI double from a streaking Kelly Johnson and an Evan Longoria grand slam. One out later, a two-run blast off the bat of Luke Scott extended the Rays' lead to 7-0.
The Blue Jays would strike back the following inning, though. They plated three runs; two from a Colby Rasmus homer and one courtesy of Melky Cabrera's RBI single.
Hellickson bounced back in the fifth inning, but would finish the night early with another less-than-quality outing due to a high pitch count: 5 IP (101 pitches, 61 strikes), 3 ER, 6 H, 4 BB, 3 K.
Jake McGee entered the the game in relief, only to allow a two-run homer to Mark DeRosa, narrowing the Rays' lead to 7-5.
McGee continues to throw just fastballs, and although the approach worked fine in 2012, it's pretty clear that big league hitters have figured out how to get to McGee. He didn't throw a single slider Monday night, which is something I would like to see changed in the future.
In the seventh, Kyle Farnsworth was in charge of maintaining the Rays' lead. He allowed the first two batters to reach with singles, and then was able to record an out with a fielders' choice play at the plate. Joel Peralta then came in to clean up the mess with two straight outs.
Peralta went back to work in the eighth. He allowed a leadoff single, struck out a batter and then gave up a walk. With the bullpen in another jam, Joe Maddon decided to go with Fernando Rodney for the five-out save. A Yunel Escobar fielding error loaded the bases, which led to an RBI sac fly by Jose Bautista.
As much as ESPN may like to rip on Joe Maddon's decision to go with Rodney for the five-out save, the reason for the [unearned] run in the inning was bad defense from Escobar at short. He not only made a very costly error, but the leadoff single in the inning also could have been caught as it deflected of his glove without even a dive. This could be a sign that Escobar—who actually returned from a left wrist injury earlier than expected last night—likely was not ready to be playing shortstop again.
With his team leading 7-6 in the ninth and already 12 pitches thrown, Rodney walked Adam Lind to start the ninth inning, which would end up being the difference in this ballgame. He bounced back to retire the next two batters, but J.P. Arencibia—with the Jays down to their final strike—belted a game-winning two-run shot to left.
I think I speak for most Rays fans when I say that total disbelief and frustration is an appropriate reaction to last night's disaster.
Well...*sigh*....moving on: The Rays are back at it tonight at 7:10 ET for Game 2 of this four-game set. Roberto Hernandez (1-4, 5.28 ERA) will take the mound versus lefty J.A. Happ (2-2, 3.98 ERA).
News and Notes:
- Prospect Chris Archer was scratched from his start last night with Triple-A Durham due to a minor calf contusion. Fortunately, this isn't an injury that will land him on the DL.
- Ben Zobrist (death of grandmother) will return tonight.
- Around the AL East: The Red Sox were the only other team in the division to play Monday night, beating the Twins 6-5 in 11 innings thanks to Stephen Drew's walkoff hit.
- Here's a Yankees injury update, which includes news on Alex Rodriguez's recent progress.
- DRaysBay takes a look at under the radar minor league performances this season in the Rays organization.