Game 23: Grant Balfour Implodes in 9th as Rays Drop Third Straight

By Robbie Knopf

Grant Balfour has his excuses. Just once this year has he pitched in back-to-back games as the Tampa Bay Rays seem to either lose or win in a blowout every single game. But that doesn’t make his meltdown on Friday night any easier to tolerate. After Evan Longoria had hit a go-ahead home run off Matt Lindstrom in the top of the 9th, Balfour allowed 3 walks, a fielder’s choice that scored a run, and a Jose Abreu walk-off grand slam as the Chicago White Sox beat the Rays 9-6.

Chris Archer started for the Rays and battled to go 6-plus innings with far from his best command. That doesn’t mean the results were so great, though–he allowed 4 runs on 9 hits. The Rays really needed Archer, one of their two established starters remaining, to deliver a good outing, and unfortunately, that did not happen.

On the offensive side, the Rays pounded out 10 hits and also drew 11 walks, 5 of which were from Matt Joyce as he set the team record. But the Rays stranded 11 runners on base, going just 3 for 13 with runners in scoring position, and also grounded into 3 double plays. They got White Sox started Erik Johnson out after just 1.2 innings pitched, but they got nothing against Jake Petricka and Zach Putnam even though the pair allowed 5 hits and 5 walks in their 5.1 innings pitched combined. Once Archer gave up their lead, that was a recipe for disaster.

It was great to see Longoria hit that home run, and hopefully he has plenty more dramatic hits in store for us this season. Ben Zobrist also had a strong game, going 2 for 5 with an RBI. But this game was a clear failure for the Rays, and they have to find a way to turn this around. The season is still young, and there is no reason to panic yet. The Rays are 10-13, and they could certainly be much worse. But with three starters injured, the Rays need their offense to score runs, their remaining established starters to execute,  and their bullpen to hold leads. The latter two did not happen in this game, and the result was a demoralizing loss. Cesar Ramos goes against John Danks today at 7:10 PM.