Last year, when the Tampa Bay Rays scored seven or more runs in a game, they finished 34-0. Unfortunately, they will be unable to match that mark again this year.
The game started off well for the Rays, as Matthew Joyce and Ben Zobrist hit back to back home runs in the top of the first to give the Rays an early 2-0 lead. Those home runs also set a new team record for consecutive games with a homer, as the Rays have now hit at least one in sixteen straight contests. The offense continued to cruise along in the second inning, as the Rays were battering Royals starter Luis Mendoza, scoring two more runs in the frame. In the third, Evan Longoria lined a hit just out of the reach of a diving Alex Gordon for a triple, and scored on James Loney‘s single for an early 5-0 lead. With Jeremy Hellickson on the mound and the typically strong Rays bullpen behind him, it would have seemed as though the Rays would be set up for a relatively comfortable win.
However, Hellickson never really seemed to be in complete control of the game. Elliot Johnson led off the bottom of the third with his first home run of the season, and the Royals loaded the bases with one out. Hellickson managed to escape the jam by getting Lorenzo Cain to ground into an inning ending double play.
The momentum had appeared to have shifted back in the Rays direction, particularly when Luke Scott led off the top of the fourth with a home run, putting the Rays ahead 6-1. Overall, in Mendoza’s four innings of work, he gave up six runs on seven hits and a walk, while recording three strikeouts. Once again, the Rays appeared to be in a good position.
But the Royals kept coming back, scoring a run in the bottom of the fourth before getting two more off Hellickson in the fifth. Cain hit an RBI triple, and scored on a sacrifice fly. After ending the inning with a strikeout, that would be all for Hellickson, who went five innings, giving up four runs on nine hits and a walk, while striking out five.
Everything fell apart for the Rays in the sixth. In the top of the inning, they had runners on second and third with one out, but Bruce Chen escaped any damage by striking out Kelly Johnson and Desmond Jennings to end the threat. In the bottom of the inning, Jake McGee came in, and loaded the bases with one out. Billy Butler hit a hard shot to the mound that McGee managed to knock down, but instead of taking the force out at home, he went to first for the out. With two down, Eric Hosmer hit a ball to short that appeared as though it would end the inning. However, Yunel Escobar booted the ball twice, allowing the tying run to score. Cain had an RBI single, giving the Royals their first lead of the game. After a walk to load the bases, Kyle Farnsworth came on in relief of McGee, and gave up a two run single to Jeff Francoeur. McGee, in his .2 innings, gave up five runs, although only one was earned, on four hits and a walk.
Tampa closed the gap in the seventh. With runners on second and third again, Loney had an RBI infield hit to close the lead to 9-7. After a groundout, Scott singled to cut the lead to one. Unfortunately, that was as close as the Rays would get, as the Royals bullpen closed out the game and the 9-8 defeat. Longoria finished a home run short of the cycle, going 3-5 with two runs scored, a double and a triple. Scott was 3-3 with a walk, two runs scored, two RBIs and a home run.
Even more disheartening than the loss may be the performance of the Rays bullpen. At this point, Joel Peralta and Jamey Wright may be the only two relievers that can be trusted in a close game right now. McGee has seemingly gone away from anything but his fastball, and the opposition is sitting on it. The bullpen has been a mess lately, and the Rays likely need to figure that out soon.