As has happened too often this season, the Rays had a chance to sweep a key series and failed. After mounting not one, not two, but three come backs in today’s game, the Rays lost it on a miserably dispiriting three-run seventh.

Good Blake Snell thought it was a night game

The game started with an exchange of solo home runs in the first inning. The Twins homer came from Brian Dozier hitting lead-off.

And the Rays solo dinger came at the hands of Evan Longoria, for whom it has been a minute. Hopefully this reminded Longo of what a home run stroke feels like.

As for Snell, after his earlier struggles this year we have all gotten a bit spoiled by the New and Improved Blake Snell, he of the biting curve and well located fastball. The pitcher who showed up today had decent stuff, as is evidenced by his seven strikeouts (in four innings). But he was too often behind hitters, and he was getting hit.

In addition to the Dozier home run, Snell gave up a lead-off single in the second. He then struck out two, looking like he was ready to get out of the inning. However, he got behind Chris Gimenez (who seems to come from the Elliott Johnson school of being a mediocre player who nonetheless sticks it to his old team) who extended the inning with a single, and then failed to fool Ehire Adrianza, whose three run bomb made the score 4-1. Snell got the next batter, but after two innings he had given up 4 runs and was puffing his way to 50 plus pitches.

The third inning didn’t look much better, as Jorge Polanco hit a line drive double to right field. The Rays, however, got lucky with some of those new-fangled rules. Polanco stole third, but while Longoria planted the tag on him he overslid and lost contact with the bag. He was called safe but that was reversed after a review.

Apart from the Longoria home run, the Rays seemed puzzled at first by Aaron Slegers, whose sinkers and sliders kept them guessing. Adeiny Hechavarria had a two out infield hit in the first. And with two outs in the third, Corey Dickerson picked up a rare walk, followed by a walk to Longoria. Lucas “two true outcomes” Duda followed, and delivered, with his own three run bomb to tie the score at 4-4. Aaron Slegers, it’s not the home runs, it’s those walks….

Although Snell seemed to pull himself together for a quick fourth, in the fifth he once more fell victim to the bottom of the Twins order giving up back to back singles to Gimenez and Adrianza. With a bullpen whose members outnumbered the Tropicana Field crowd (am I doing this right?), Cash pulled Blake with two men on base and brought in Sergio Romo.

Sometimes High Leverage Comes in the Fifth Inning

It took Romo eight pitches but he got the powerful Brian Dozier to strike out. Unfortunately a slider kinda sorta hit Jorge Polanco despite the fact that he seemed to be outside the batters box at the time, which loaded the bases. Romo went full count on Byron Buxton, which makes for some nail biting tension, and then had him chasing a slider that ended up way off the plate for strike three. Romo came oh so close to getting out of it, but Escobar got a hold of a slider that didn’t look all that bad. His sinking liner to was just too short for Souza to catch, and with runners going that mean two runs came home, Twins taking a 6-4 lead.

After giving up a fifth inning lead-off single to Jesus Sucre, the Twins pulled their starter in favor of lefty Buddy Boshers who would face Rays lefties Kevin Kiermaier and Corey Dickerson. But KK don’t care about your lefty-lefty match-up because he smoked a sinker that just missed the Rays tank in center field. The Rays threatened further with a double and a walk, but could not undo the 6-6 tie.

Walks, errors and bloops. What a way to lose

Unfortunately the tie was broken in the 7th in a really dispiriting way. Steve Cishek allowed a lead off walk. Jorge Polanco then laid down a bunt that landed between the pitcher and the catcher near the third base line. Cishek and Sucre both went for it, and Cishek got there first.

At that moment I had a bit a feeling of foreboding. I don’t know how to test this theory, but it seems to me that pitchers often have problems throwing to first on bunts. It makes sense. Some 10, 20, or 100 times during the game the pitcher is winding up and throwing home with all his might. It’s ingrained in his muscle memory. Then suddenly, with little time to sort things out, he’s throwing a different distance, a different trajectory, a different stance.

It was clear from the second the ball left Cishek’s hand that it was a bad throw, nowhere near the first baseman. The ball ended up way out of Souza’s range, and Dozier scored from first, 7-6 Then Eduardo Escobar popped one up to shallow center-right, just beyond the reach of Souza, and it dropped for an RBI single, 8-6. What an unfortunate way to lose a lead and a game.

Austin Pruitt, who I guess is not going to start this weekend after all, replaced Cishek but the bad mojo continued. Robbie Grossman hit a fly ball that didn’t have a ton of authority but also fell into the right field no man’s land, just beyond a diving Souza.

With runners at second and third, the Rays intentionally walked Joe Mauer, so Pruitt was facing Max Kepler with bases loaded and one out, trying to keep the deficit at two. For a hot sec it looked as though the game were truly over, as Kepler hit a bomb that had home run distance. It landed just a smidge foul. A ground ball to Hechevarria seemed like it had double play possibilities, but either Hech was too slow or Kepler too fast, and the only play was a force at second, allowing the Twins’ ninth run to score.

So three runs for the Twins on pretty much no hard hit balls.

The Twins would tack on another run and the Rays would not, so 10-6 is your final score. It’s not often that the Rays score six runs and lose.

Final thoughts

  • Stay safe, y’all!
  • Rays make the compassionate and smart decision to allow players to bring families to Boston.

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

xx


Article first appeared on www.draysbay.com