Following Friday night’s encouraging 4-2 win over Justin Verlander, in which the Rays hit three home runs, it seemed as if they were poised to, at the very least, come away with a split of this 4 game set with Detroit. However, here we are, two days later and the Rays, in turn, lost the final 2 games, dropping 3 of 4 and falling to 41-38 on the season, now 4th in the AL East.
The game started off on the right foot as the Rays, without the benefit of a hit, managed to scratch across a run in the bottom of the 1st. Desmond Jennings lead off with a walk, followed by a stolen base, and would advance to 3rd on a wild pitch. He’d ultimately score on a sacrifice fly by BJ Upton.
Detroit would tie the game in the 4th, but Alex Cobb did a nice job of minimizing the damage. An error by Brooks Conrad, the latest replacement at 3rd for the Rays, possibly cost the Rays a doubleplay that would have erased Prince Fielder’s lead-off single, if not at least the lead out. Back to back singles by Raburn and Avila would score the tying run, but a good defensive play by Jeff Keppinger, filling in at 1st for Carlos Pena who was given the day off, forced out Delmon Young at the plate, on a ground ball by Don Kelly. Cobb proceeded to strikeout Ramon Santiago and get Austin Jackson to ground into a fielder’s choice to end the frame.
As has been customary for the Rays, however, they’d go down in order, quickly, in the bottom of the frame, forcing Cobb back to the mound to face the teeth of the Tigers lineup. After Detroit loaded the bases via a walk to Berry and a hit by pitch of Fielder, sandwiched around a single by Cabrera, Young and Avila each hit a sacrifice fly, giving the Tigers a 3-1 lead. Having gone hitless against Drew Smyly up until that point, the Rays would mount a rally and tie the game in the bottom of the 5th, as Ben Zobrist lead off with a double and, following hits from two unlikely sources in Matsui and Jose Molina, the game was tied at 3.
Cobb was unable to hold it there, however, as once again, as has been the case most of this series, the Tigers answered right back. Don Kelly, who entered today hitting under .200, lead off with a double, quickly advanced to 3rd on a sacrifice by Santiago and would quickly score on an Austin Jackson single past the drawn in infield to give the Tigers the lead. That would be all for Cobb, and, after being replaced by Jake McGee, who struck out the first batter he faced, a wild pitch followed by intentionally walking Cabrera left Prince Fielder up with a man in scoring position, and he promptly took advantage, driving in Jackson. Cobb had what I’d deem a subpar outing against a tough Detroit lineup, throwing 100 pitches in 5 and 1/3, allowing 8 hits, walking 2 and striking out 3, giving up 5 runs (4 earned).
Drew Smyly would exit for Detroit and subsequently turn it over to his bullpen, and following a flawless 6th by Brayan Villareal, striking out the side, the Rays had a scoring opportunity against Phil Coke in the 7th. Zobrist would reach on an infield single, and Matsui also singled two batters later (again, sandwiched around a strikeout by Brooks Conrad, who went 0-3 with 2 strikeouts). With Molina at the plate, Coke threw a pitch that handcuffed Alex Avila a bit, but didn’t get that far behind him. Zobrist tried to be opportunistic on the base paths and swipe 3rd, which is often encouraged and in the Rays DNA. Unfortunately, Avila easily gunned him out, Molina flied out to end the inning, and the Rays would not threaten again, as the back end of the Tigers bullpen retired the final 6 in order. Joaquin Benoit worked the 8th and held, Jose Valverde the 9th to pick up the save. Drew Smyly got the win for the Tigers, he’s 3-3, while Alex Cobb dropped his 2nd straight decision and is now 3-5 for the Rays, who will try once again to get back on track starting Monday against the Yankees, whom they now trail by 7.5 games in the AL East.
Notes: The Rays lost the season series, 5-2, to the Tigers, after losing it 6-1 last season. The Rays only 2 wins against the Tigers this season came off of Justin Verlander. lost twice to Rick Porcello and Drew Smyly respectively who, combined, are just 9-8 on the season. Despite their recent struggles, the Rays still trail Baltimore and Los Angeles by 2.5 games for a wildcard spot, with Boston 1 game in front of the Rays. Luke Scott, returning from the DL over the weekend, went 0-10 with a walk and 1 RBI. Matt Joyce is expected to return from the DL sometime this week.