Survival Mode Continues As Rays Drop Opener To A’s 3-2
The Tampa Bay Rays continued to battle through a nine game portion of their schedule that pitted them against the Milwaukee Brewers, Los Angeles Angels, and Oakland Athletics.
After taking two out of three from Milwaukee they dropped two out of three to the Angels and last night fell 3-2 to the Oakland A’s in 10 innings.
The loss drops the Rays to 9.5 games behind the AL East leading Baltimore Orioles who defeated the Washington Nationals 7-3 and 5.5 games behind the idle second wild card leading Toronto Blue Jays. The loss paired with the Chicago White Sox 5-3 win over Texas dropped the Rays behind the Sox in the overall AL standings.
Grant Balfour has struggled enough this season but last night his struggles were aided by a poor defensive play by the Rays Sean Rodriguez and Kevin Kiermaier and a blown check swing call on Josh Donaldson that led to the immediate ejection of Joe Maddon.
Balfour entered the 1oth with the score tied 2-2 and gave up a 1-out single to Sam Fuld who got into scoring position by stealing second base. Balfour walked John Jaso to bring Josh Donaldson to the plate.
Donaldson sent a pop fly down the right field line that landed between an indecisive Sean Rodriguez who had entered the game as a pinch runner for James Loney and remained in the game at first base and Kevin Kiermaier.
With the count 2-2 Balfour got Donaldson to chase for strike three but first base umpire Quinn Wolcott ruled that Donaldson did not go. Joe Maddon bolted from the dugout to protest and was immediately ejected from the game.
“That’s not borderline. That was egregious, and that’s what I had a problem with,” said Maddon. “I had been patient all night with a lot of stuff. My patience ran out at that point. That call was inappropriate.” – mlb.com
After Donaldson walked Balfour struck out Brandon Moss for the second out but Derrick Norris followed with a walk-off single up the middle to send the A’s fans home happy.
The Rays had an opportunity to take the lead in the top of the ninth as James Loney singled and was replaced by pinch runner Sean Rodriguez. Logan Forsythe bunted Rodriguez to second. Jed Lowrie couldn’t handle a groundball off the bat of Yunel Escobar and the ball bounded away from the A’s shortstop but Rodriguez elected not to head home rather to stop at third. Rodriguez was thrown out by pitcher Sean Doolittle who came off the mound to pick up the safety squeeze bunt off the bat of pinch hitter Brandon Guyer.
The game featured an odd pitching move by Joe Maddon in the bottom of the eighth inning as he elected to have Joel Peralta walk Jonny Gomes to load the bases and brought in Brad Boxberger to face the left handed hitting Sam Fuld who struck out to end the inning.
The A’s had opportunities all night long loading the bases in the first and second innings against Rays starter Alex Cobb but failed to score. Cobb was not sharp on the evening lasting only 5.2 innings and although he only allowed two runs (earned) he gave up seven hits striking out four walking four and hitting a batter.
Evan Longoria continued to show signs that his bat is heating up by belting his 14th home run of the season of A’s starter Jeff Smardzija in the second inning.
James Loney extended his streak of reaching base via a hit or walk to 23 games by going 2 for 4 and Desmond Jennings had a pair of hits.
The Rays struggles with runners in scoring position continued as they were just 1 for 10 with RISP.
Drew Smyly (6-9, 3.93 ERA) will make his Rays debut tonight against former Rays pitcher Jason Hammel who is 8-9 with a 3.87 ERA overall but has struggled with the A’s since being acquired going 0-4 with a 9.53 ERA.