It was quite irregular the way they were doing it, but the Rays were winning nevertheless. Roberto Hernandez had gone 6 one-run innings and Jose Molina was 3 for 3 with 2 doubles and 3 RBI to help the Rays to a 5-1 lead over the Angels. But just because unexpected contributors arise, it doesn’t mean that the core players can just sit there and do nothing. Molina came up with some clutch hits and Hernandez did his part to set up the Rays to win, but an absence of other clutch hits combined with the worst relief pitching we have seen from the Rays in ages cost the Rays the type of game that was handed to them on a silver platter.
The Rays just could not get runs across. After stranding one in the first inning, Jose Molina drove in their first run with an RBI double but the Rays wound up stranding the bases loaded. They stranded two more in the 3rd and the bases loaded again in the 4th before finally getting 2 more runs in the 5th when Molina drilled a 2-run double. Finally in the 6th, a Rays player not named Jose Molina had a hit with runners in scoring position as James Loney laced a 2-out, 2-run single. But the Rays managed just one baserunner the last three innings, and the damage by non-Molina players had been done. Everyone not named Molina went just 1 for 10 with runners in scoring position, and the Rays stranded 13 runners on the game. The good news is that Molina’s hits certainly counted and what matters at the end of the day is not how you score runs but whether you score them. But when the Rays lost this game, the reality of all the opportunities they missed started to sink in.
Hernandez had been excellent for the first 6 innings, allowing just 1 run on 6 hits, striking out 6 while walking 3. At the end of the day, though, he isn’t that great of a pitcher and he was going to get into some trouble. That happened to start the 7th inning when Chris Nelson and Grant Green singled to give the Angels 2 on with 1 out. Hernandez had done his job, and then Joe Maddon brought in Jake McGee to do his job: escape the jam and keep the Rays in line for an easy win. He failed spectacularly. He walked the weak-hitting Peter Bourjos before getting the first out of the inning on a J.B. Shuck groundout that scored a run and gave the Angels runners at 2nd and 3rd. Then he left a fastball over the plate to Erick Aybar, and Aybar drilled it for a 2-run single to make the Rays’ lead just 5-4. Hernandez wound up allowing three runs, and the last two runs were his fault–he allowed them to reach base. But Jake McGee is on this team to escape those types of jams, and this time he simply could not execute. All 17 of his pitches were fastballs as hitters knew what was coming and pounced when he could not locate his pitches.
Joel Peralta was lights out in the 8th inning, striking out the side on 13 pitches. But Fernando Rodney‘s 9th inning was a totally different story. Rodney began the inning by walking Grant Green before getting Bourjos to ground into a force play at second base. Bourjos then stole second, moving the tying run into scoring position. Rodney got J.B. Shuck to hit a bloop to centerfield, but Desmond Jennings just missed it as he tried to run in, allowing Shuck to go to 2nd and Bourjos to go to 3rd. There was 1 out and the tying and go-ahead runs on base, and Rodney had to find a way to escape the jam. The Jennings misplay was bad luck, but the Rays had to hope Rodney could overcome it. Instead, he left a fastball right down the middle that Erick Aybar drilled for a go-ahead 2-run double as the Angels took a 6-5 lead. The Rays got a leadoff walk from Yunel Escobar in the 9th against former Ray Dane De La Rosa, but Loney failed in his bid for a 2-run home run and Matt Joyce grounded into a game-ended double play as the Angels won 6-5.
It was a heartbreaking loss for the Rays in a game where two of their least-valuable players, Jose Molina and Roberto Hernandez, both came up huge but basically everyone else couldn’t manage anything positive. Things are starting to fall apart for this Rays team–Jeremy Hellickson has been sent down and Matt Moore and Jesse Crain are still injured. But maybe this is the wake-up call the Rays need. Three bad games are just three bad games. The Rays just have to get thesmeslves and find a way to live up to their potential. It’s time to stop the bleeding and start making things interesting again in the American League East. Chris Archer starts on Wednesday against Garrett Richards as the Rays hope to find a spark.