Bad defense stings. You do everything you can to try to overcome it, but sometimes, even most of the time, you just can’t. It took 15 innings, but early defensive miscues were the catalyst in the Rays’ 4-3 loss to the Marlins on Saturday (going into Sunday).
The Marlins stole a run against James Shields and the Rays in the first inning. Jose Reyes singled, advanced to second base on a groundball, and scored on a Sean Rodriguez throwing error to hand Miami a 1-0 lead. Shields would retire each of the next two batters. But then more poor defense burned him in the next frame. With 1 out, Matt Joyce dropped a Gaby Sanchez flyball for a single ahead of a Scott Cousins ground-rule double. John Buck grounded out for what should have been the inning’s third out. But instead, Jose Reyes hit a ball just by Elliot Johnson for a 2-run single, and suddenly the Rays trailed 3-0 on unearned runs.
The Rays would battle back against Anibal Sanchez. Elliot Johnson tripled to begin the 3rd inning and scored on a Jose Molina RBI single. Then Molina improbably came up huge in the 5th inning as well, slamming a solo homer to pull the Rays within a run. And then the Rays tied the game in the 7th when Sean Rodriguez slammed an RBI triple against Steve Cishek in relief of Sanchez to tie the game at 3. Sanchez went 6.1 innings, allowing 3 runs (1 an inherited runner scoring) on 4, striking out 6 while walking 3.
Shields should have coasted to a win. He wasn’t dominant yet he went 7.2 innings, allowing not a single earned run but 3 unearned run on 8 hits, striking out 5 while walking 1. He did everything he could to throw shutout ball, but his defense simply let him down.
Molina tried to continue his improbable game in the 9th inning. Batting against Edward Mujica, Molina hit a high drive to deep left field, but ex-Ray Justin Ruggiano made a leaping grab to rob Molina of an extra-base hit. The game went into extra innings.
The Rays survived an Elliot Johnson error in the top of the 10th and hoped to end the game in the bottom of the inning. Desmond Jennings reached on a Jose Reyes error and then Matt Joyce singled. But B.J. Upton grounded into a 5-5-3 double play, with Hanley Ramirez toeing the third base bag for the force, as the Marlins escaped to force the game into the 11th inning.
Burke Badenhop came up huge in the clutch to work around a 12th inning double by Logan Morrison and a 13th inning triple by Jose Reyes. Both bullpens buckled down and simply did not allow a run from the 10th to the 14th inning. But Brandon Gomes broke down in his second inning of work in the 15th. Ruggiano doubled and this time the Marlins got him in as Scott Cousins laced an RBI triple. Heath Bell shut down the Rays in the bottom of the inning as he struck out the side for his 14th save as the Marlins won the hard-fought game 4-3. Ryan Webb (3-1) earned the win with 3 shutout innings, and Gomes (1-2) took the loss. What a game it was. The pitching for both sides was certainly not dominant but simply came through time after time with runners on base, stranding a total of 26 runners in the game. A couple of the game’s heroes were Jose Molina and Justin Ruggiano. Who would have guessed that? But this 15 inning classic didn’t need to happen. Shields played the same game as the game’s other pitchers. He allowed hits, sure, but he did everything he needed to do to escape jams. His defense just didn’t do its job. You’re not going to be perfect on defense. But the errors happened at precisely the wrong time and it cost him and the Rays this game.