Kevin Kiermaier was grand for the Tampa Bay Rays, but late-inning struggles from the bullpen gave the Rays a 5-4 loss at the hands of the Kansas City Royals.
The Royals stole the rubber-game of the series with the Rays when Salvador Perez hit a three-run homer in the top of the ninth-inning against Kirby Yates. Yates found himself pitching in an unfamiliar high-pressure situation in the ninth-inning because, frankly, there was no one left. The Royals kept getting on-base against each reliever and forced Joe Maddon to use his usual high-pressure relievers earlier in the game. Alex Cobb went 6.2 innings and rebounded nicely after giving up an early run, but his first home-win still remains out of reach. Instead, Aaron Crow got his fourth win of the season going one inning giving up one hit and walking two batters, and Greg Holland pitched a flawless ninth for his twenty-fourth save this season.
Early in the game, the story was the difference between pitching and throwing. After striking out the first two Royals of the game on six pitches, Alex Cobb let a fastball drift over the center of the plate against Eric Hosmer,who promptly deposited the pitch in the right-field seats. After that Cobb seemed to lose trust in his fastball command and leaned heavily on his secondary pitches, especially his change-up, throughout the early innings. The fourth-inning appeared to have a deciding effect on the game as Cobb pitched his way into a bases-loaded no-out jam. With a little luck, Cobb did a good job to pitch his way out of the jam allowing minimal damage. The changeup seemed to be the only pitch on which Cobb could rely throughout the night; he recorded all of his 7 strikeouts off of his change. Despite the fastball issues, Cobb still put together a solid start, going 6.2 innings while allowing 2 runs and leaving the game in line for the win.
The 4th inning was the big one for the Rays offense. Royals’ young stater Yordano Ventura started the inning by walking a pair of batters, and after getting 2 more outs he would walk Jose Molina to load the bases. Perhaps it was becoming evident for Ventura that he was losing his fastball command. He would throw 3 changeups in 4 pitches to Kevin Kiermaier. Keirmaier would take advantage of the final changeup he saw, putting it in the right field stands for a grand-slam- the first that the Rays have hit this season. This put the Rays up 4-2 after 4 innings, and would, unfortunately, be their only hit with runners-in-scoring-position of the night. Kiermaier, the would-be story of the night, went a perfect 4 for 4, but got little help from the rest of the offense.
If not for some shaky defense, Cobb should have been out of the 7th inning, but Grant Balfour was forced to come on with a pair of runners on base. He walked the first batter, Hosmer, loading the bases before getting Perez to fly out to shallow center. Balfour was replaced promptly by Jake McGee in the 8th, but he seemed worn. McGee’s fastball was inconsistent (sometimes at 93 mph, other times the usual 97 mph) and inaccurate. McGee, like Balfour, only went 1/3 of an inning, but he gave up 2 hits, leaving two runners on base for Brad Boxberger to clean up. Boxberger was able to get out of the jam, and Maddon then brought in Joel Peralta,who had issues in his previous appearance blowing a save. Peralta was quickly in hot water after putting runners on the corners with only one out. Maddon had to bring Yates into this high-pressure save situation, because all of his other go-to short-term relievers had been used. However, Yates couldn’t lock the game down, instead allowing the three-run homer to Perez to suddenly put the Rays down by a run. The Rays couldn’t answer in the bottom of the 9th, and that would be the ballgame.
Notes: – The Rays lost their first series since going on their recent road-trip. They begin a new series hosting the Toronto Blue Jays on Friday when Chris Archer is expected to face Mark Buehrle. After the loss, the Rays’ record falls back to 10-games under .500, and they are 9.0 games out of first in the AL East.
– In an interview before the game, Wil Myers indicated that the cast on his wrist could be off by this Friday as he is set for a re-evaluation then.
– Although they only had one error all night, the Rays defense was less-than-perfect. On two separate occasions they settled for fielder’s-choices when they could have had double-plays (but for bobbles from Rodriguez and Longoria).
– During the game it was reported that Masahiro Tanaka, the New York Yankees All-Star starter, would be placed on the 15-day DL with elbow-soreness, an obvious blow to the Yankees playoff hopes.