For years, no matter what the Rays did with their bullpen, it always worked out perfectly. This year, it seems like the opposite has been true. Lead after lead has withered away, but never anything like this as the Rays blew an early 7-0 lead in their 8-7 loss to the Blue Jays.
The Rays pounded Toronto starter Mark Buehrle for 7 runs in the third inning, with Evan Longoria hitting a grand slam and Luke Scott coming through with a 2-run shot. The Rays were up 7-0 and seemed prime to coast to victory. But the Rays offense was shut down from there and the Blue Jays lineup, which has been quiet so far this season, slowly but surely came alive.
Jeremy Hellickson was never sharp in this game for the Rays, but he finally came apart in the 4th, allowing a Colby Rasmus 2-run home run and a Melky Cabrera RBI single. Hellickson battled to go 5 innings allowing 3 runs on 6 hits, striking out 3 while walking 4. His fastball command deserted him, but he found a way to not completely crumble. However, his struggles necessitated the Rays bullpen to go 4 innings, and that was a total disaster.
Jake McGee pitched the 6th for the Rays and looked pretty good overall, but he allowed an infield single and then a pinch-hit, opposite-field home run by Mark DeRosa, and suddenly it was 7-5. Then in the 8th, Yunel Escobar made a key error at shortstop to set up a Jose Bautista sac fly of Joel Peralta that made it 7-6. And the nail in the coffin was a 2-run home run by J.P. Arencibia off of Fernando Rodney to make it 8-7 Toronto and make Rays fans everywhere entirely lose their minds.
It was one game, but it felt like a microcosm of the entire season: an outstanding start but then the offense going silent, the starting pitching coming apart, and the bullpen and even the defense imploding magnificently. Best move for the Rays: forget this game ever happened. Roberto Hernandez takes on J.A. Happ as the Rays hope to do just that versus the Blue Jays tomorrow.