Jul 26, 2014; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays relief pitcher Grant Balfour (50) against the Boston Red Sox at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Game 112: Grant Balfour, Rays Lose Tough Game in 10 Innings

With the travel theme of the current eleven day, 10 game road trip being “James Bond Formal”, it might take more than a little assistance from “Q Section” to win the respective series versus the Oakland Athletics, Chicago Cubs, and Texas Rangers before returning home to face the New York Yankees on August 15th. On Monday night new Tampa Bay Rays ace Alex Cobb (3-0, 1.31 ERA with 24 strike outs in last three starts) faced Jeff Samardzija (2-1, 3.19 ERA in last 5 starts) at the O.co Coliseum in Oakland. In a long three hour and fifty-seven minute 10 inning game, Tampa Bay lost 3-2 to the Oakland A’s.

There was nothing “Bondian” about the Rays pitching Monday night. For most of the five pitchers involved, with the exception of “Box” in the 8th inning, it seemed they couldn’t find the strike zone even with GPS. Starter Alex Cobb was uncharacteristically out of control the first two innings, walking four of the first nine batters faced, but having enough luck to exit two consecutive bases loaded innings without surrendering a run. “Cobber” ended up throwing 102 pitches with 62 strikes, far from his normal ratio, exiting the game after five and two-thirds innings with four strike outs while giving up seven hits and two ERs. After Joel Peralta managed to get Brandon Moss to fly out to Kevin Kiermaier for the third out in the sixth, Cobb was fortunate to leave the game with a 2-2 tie.

As stated earlier, the middle relief pitching was equally uneven until Brad Boxberger struck out former Ray Sam Fuld to end the seventh inning and then returned in the bottom of the eighth to retire the A’s batters in order, the only time Rays pitching was able to accomplish that magical feat all night. It could be that there was an earthquake in Oakland during this game that only the Rays pitching staff felt as even Jake McGee struggled when entering the ninth inning, giving up a rare four pitch walk to Jed Lowrie, within a 23 pitch, 12 strike performance. With the “Jake ‘n’ the Box” show over for the evening, Grant Balfour entered the tenth inning to hopefully preserve the 2-2 tie. After giving up a one out single to Fuld and then walking two to load the bases, Balfour gave up the walk-off single to Derek Norris to end the game. With such an ending, one might question the middle relief pitching order selection of manager Joe Maddon, where he might have chosen Balfour to replace Peralta in the seventh instead of Boxberger. Regardless of hindsight, it was a tough night for Rays pitchers.

A’s starter Jeff Samardzija managed to pitch a strong seven innings which stifled the Rays offense. Aside from Evan Longoria‘s 352 foot, 14th home run blast in the top of the second inning in addition to a timely Desmond Jennings RBI single to drive in Kevin Kiermaier in the fifth, Rays bats were mostly silent.

Although the Oakland A’s were able to load the bases four times on the Rays and unable to score during the first three while leaving 18 runners on base, it was the final bags full attempt in the tenth inning that doomed Tampa Bay for the night, an unfortunate ending to a tight and tense game. Josh Donaldson reached base on a controversial walk after a check swing call that the Rays thoroughly disagreed with–it got Joe Maddon tossed from the game–before the Rays went to a five-man infield as Balfour came back to strike out Brandon Moss, with Ben Zobrist coming in from left field. However, After Balfour got ahead of Derek Norris 0-2, he allowed a single up the middle to end it as the Rays lost by a 3-2 score.

On Tuesday night at 10:05pm EST, new Ray Drew Smyly will face former Ray Jason Hammel at the O.co Coliseum for the second game of the series.

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