Everyone on the Rays keeps saying that the team is waiting for a spark to reignite them. But what is a spark? A spark is only determined by the events that happen after it. The Rays had their chances once again on Saturday night and there were a few choice moments where it seemed like they were on the verge of breaking out again. By the end of the night, however, every rally has turned out to be just a flicker of power on your broken phone charger before it inevitably goes out again. Saturday’s game marked yet another demoralizing loss as the Rays watched their lead for the second Wild Card go down to just one game.
Chris Archer took the mound for the Rays and did not quite get hammered but did not give the Rays nearly the type of outing they were hoping for from him. Kendrys Morales touched him for a 2-out single in the 1st inning before Justin Smoak slammed a solo homer in the 2nd inning and Morales got him for another solo shot in the 3rd. Archer tossed a perfect 4th, but Joe Maddon had seen enough from Archer after just 75 pitches. Holding the opposition to one run in an inning can be a momentum shift, but not when you’re doing that every single inning. One run three times certainly adds up, and the Rays found themselves down 3-0.
Alex Torres replaced Archer as Joe Maddon and the Rays showed their urgency to win this game. But Torres looked flat from the start and wound up doing just as poorly as Archer. Torres allowed a leadoff double to Nick Franklin in the 5th before Franklin scored on a squeeze play bunt single by Abrham Almonte. Then the Rays finally put together something in the bottom of the inning, getting some help on a Kyle Seager error before Evan Longoria drilled a 2-run home run off James Paxton to make it 4-2. But Torres took the air out of the Rays’ rally in the bottom of the 6th, allowing an RBI double to Michael Saunders before leaving the game. Jamey Wright got a gift of his own when Saunders broke early trying to steal third base and Wright picked him off, but a single and another Franklin double put the Rays behind by 4 runs once again. The worst, though, was yet to come for the Rays.
The Rays had done almost nothing against Mariners rookie James Paxton before Longoria finally touched him up for the 2-run shot in the 6th. Paxton went 6 innings in his major league debut allowing just 2 runs, 1 earned, on 4 hits, striking out 3 while walking none. But Longoria’s blast got him out of the game, and the Rays looked to have much better fortune against Tom Wilhelmsen in the 7th. David DeJesus pinch-hit for Sean Rodriguez and walked before Jose Lobaton walked as well to give the Rays a pair of baserunners. DeJesus was then aggressive when a ball got away from Mariners catcher Mike Zunino, and he rewarded the Rays with runners on 2nd and 3rd as he slid in just ahead of the throw. But then Yunel Escobar flied out to shallow right field, Desmond Jennings popped out, and Ben Zobrist‘s drive to right-center fell just short as the Rays blew yet another golden opportunity. The Rays scored 2 runs on 5 hits, getting overmatched by Mariners pitching most of the day. But in the 7th inning, they had everything they could have hoped for but let it slip away. 6-2 would be the final as the Mariners dropped the Rays to 2-7 on their West Coast swing.
They were a few highlights in this game for the Rays. Of the Rays’ 5 hits, 4 game from Evan Longoria and Wil Myers, with Longoria slamming his home run before singling in his final at-bat and Myers having a pair of singles of his own. Wesley Wright looked great in the 7th inning for the Rays, striking out two while working around a hit, and fellow lefty Cesar Ramos got out of a two on, no out jam in the 8th with a pair of strikeouts of his own. Longoria and Myers heating up would be a huge lift to the Rays offense, and getting their bullpen going will be important to the Rays’ success as well. But the Rays have a long way to go before they escape this rut they have been in. Jeremy Hellickson takes the ball for the Rays against Erasmo Ramirez at 4:10 PM on Sunday as the Rays hope to get something started and leave Seattle with their Wild Card lead intact.