With four big bats out of a lineup it's tough to score runs, and the Rays showed just how difficult it was to do so Thursday night.
Matt Moore took the mound for the Rays, and did not pitch one of his better games, although it was a pretty decent outing. Southpaw Gio Gonzalez—who is enjoying a great season in Washington—was on the hill for the Nationals.
Despite the lack of right-handed bats (Longoria and Keppinger both out of the lineup), the Rays found a bit of run production from the ones they had. Desmond Jennings started the scoring with an RBI single in the second inning to give the Rays a 1-0 lead.
The Nationals responded in the bottom of the third, getting a pair of runs via a Michael Morse sac fly and an Ian Desmond RBI single.
In the sixth, the Rays tied up the game at 2-2 with an RBI single off the bat of Sean Rodriguez.
Matt Moore was removed from the game for a pinch hitter in the inning, and was replaced by Joel Peralta. Moore gave up two runs in just five innings pitched as the walks (had four Thursday) continued to kill him. He pitched 93 pitches, and would have stayed in the game if it wasn't for the National League rule (pitchers hitting). But the Rays obviously were looking to give themselves the best opportunity to score, therefore put Elliot Johnson into the game. Unfortunately, the worst case scenario happened: Johnson struck out and Moore's replacement was blasted and lost the game.
In the midst of Pine-Tar-Gate and the big discussion over Tuesday night's incident, a big two-out double by Danny Espinosa scoring two runs would ruin both Peralta's and the Rays' night. He was charged with the loss on the same day he was issued an 8-game suspension from MLB.
Tampa's offense would not strike back, and the Nats ended up tacking on one more run with an RBI double by Roger Bernadina (off of Wade Davis).
The Rays are now 38-31 on the season, and blow another chance to move up in the division. A win would of gained them a half-game on both the Yankees and Orioles, who did not play Thursday. The Red Sox have won 5 straight and are now just two games behind Tampa. They Rays are 3.5 games out of first and a game behind Baltimore.
Notable Stat Lines:
- M. Moore: 2 ER, 3 H, 4 BB, 6 K through 5.0 IP. ERA now 4.13
- J.P. Howell: Perfect with 1 K through 1 IP.
- D. Jennings: 1-4, RBI, BB, SB
- B. Zobrist: 1-3, R, BB
- S. Rodriguez: 1-3, RBI
- J. Lobaton: 2-4
- D. Sutton: 2-3, E5
Rays News and Notes:
- The Rays have claimed INF/OF Brooks Conrad off waivers from the Brewers. Conrad is hitting just .075 in 25 games for Milwaukee this season.
- Keppinger will join the Rays today in Philadelphia for the weekend series against the Phillies. While Kepp is coming off the DL, the Rays may have Matt Joyce—who has been the Rays' best hitter this season—join the DL. Joyce's back has remained stiff after leaving Tuesday's game, and the Rays may decide to put him on the DL to open up the roster spot for Keppinger instead of demoting either Rhymes or Sutton while Joyce is out for a couple of days. A lot depends on how Joyce feels today, and it would obviously be a big blow to play without Joyce for a significant amount of time.
- Lower-level prospect southpaws Enny Romero (Class A+) and Felipe Rivero (Class A) will represent the Rays at the All-Star Futures Game in Kansas City.
- The Rays have signed third-round pick Andrew Toles. Their first two picks in Draft are still unsigned.
- James Shields (7-4, 3.72 ERA) will square off against Cliff Lee (0-3, 3.48 ERA) to kick off the thee-game set in Philly with a good pitching matchup.
- Here's Joel Peralta discussing his suspension: