The sting won’t go away for a while.
The game got off to a promising start as B.J. Upton slammed the second pitch of the game from Miguel Gonzalez for a solo home run. But in the bottom of the inning, everything was off for Alex Cobb- his fastball command, his curveball, even his signature split-change. He allowed 4 hits and 2 runs and it seemed like he was lucky to allow that little. But Cobb composed himself to get the final out before working a scoreless 2nd inning, and the Rays tied the game in the 3rd. With a runner on and 2 outs, Evan Longoria took a beautiful changeup by Gonzalez into left field for a base hit, a reminder of just how good a hitter he is, and Ben Francisco tied up the game, drilling a double into the left field corner to make it a 2-2 game.
Cobb struck out the side in the 3rd and got a line drive double play to make the 4th an easy inning as well, but he was taken out with 2 on and 2 out in the 5th. Jake McGee got a strikeout to escape the jam. Cobb went 4.2 innings allowing 2 runs on 7 hits, striking out 6 while walking 2. He didn’t have anywhere near his best stuff, but he battled to keep the Orioles at 2 runs.
In the 6th, the Rays put a little rally together on a Ben Francisco single and a Carlos Pena walk with 1 out and the runners advanced on a balk. Ryan Roberts then struck out before the Orioles had Gonzalez intentionally walk Matthew Joyce to bring up Jose Molina. The Rays chose not to pinch-hit for Molina and he grounded out weakly to escape the jam. Why didn’t they pinch-hit for Molina there? Everyone watching the game knew that him giving the Rays the lead would have been an absolute miracle. Why not go for Sam Fuld or Luke Scott on the bench?
After McGee struck out the side in the 6th, Darren O’Day entered the game for the Orioles and walked B.J. Upton. Upton then stole second base, but O’Day forced both Jeff Keppinger and Ben Zobrist to pop out. Then he intentionally walked Evan Longoria to bring Francisco to the plate. Francisco had 2 hits in the game, but O’Day is death on righties so it made sense for the Rays to pinch-hit Fuld or Scott. Instead, Francisco struck out- and then Fuld entered the game for defense. If Fuld was going to enter the game for defense anyway, why not let him hit?
The Rays got more big-time relief from Wade Davis in the 7th as he struck out 2 in a perfect frame. Joel Peralta entered the game in the bottom of the 8th and with 1 out, he allowed a groundball pass first down the right field line for a double for Matt Wieters. The problem: Pena was supposed to be in no-doubles defense and was playing too far off the line. Suddenly the go-ahead run was in scoring position. Wilson Betemit then hit a line drive- but right at Matt Joyce. Then Peralta walked Mark Reynolds- in an at-bat where the umpire missed two clear strike calls. Everything was going against the Rays. But Peralta forced Chris Davis to fly out to end the inning.
With 1 out in the 9th against Orioles closer Jim Johnson, Jeff Keppinger singled and was pinch-ran for by Rich Thompson. Despite Ben Zobrist’s 7-pitch at-bat, Thompson failed to steal second base before Zobrist flied out. Then with Evan Longoria at the plate, Thompson ran but the Orioles called for a pitchout. Matt Wieters’ throw was high and Thompson was called safe- although replays showed that he was out in a very close play. The Rays had finally gotten a break. Then Longoria rolled over on a Johnson fastball and hit a soft groundball down the third base line. Manny Machado fielded but had no play. Instead of throwing to first base, he faked the throw, and in doing so he deked Thompson into grounding the third base bag too aggressively, and Machado found him off third base before the Orioles got him in a rundown. Another opportunity wasted.
In the 9th, Joe Maddon elected to send Kyle Farnsworth to the mound instead of Fernando Rodney. That move immediately backfired. Machado singled, was bunted to second base, and then scored on Nate McLouth‘s walk-off single as the Orioles won 3-2.
Joe Maddon is a great manager. But what happened on Wednesday? Nothing, really. It was just Maddon being Maddon and this time it didn’t work out. He gambled on a red-hot Francisco beating O’Day. He trusted Farnsworth to hold down the O’s. You get the idea. But it all went wrong and it cost the Rays a critical game. We’re going to be thinking about this one for a while, wondering how the Rays let this one slip away. What’s done is done, though. The Rays desperately need a strong start from Jeremy Hellickson on Thursday as he goes up against Wei-Yin Chen- and then need their offense to show up and come through in the clutch.