Game 95: Sean Rodriguez Belts 9th HR in 8-5 Loss to Blue Jays

By Fletcher Keel

The Tampa Bay Rays came from behind in dramatic fashion, but ultimately fell to their division rival Toronto Blue Jays in the first game of a three game weekend series 8-5 in the final stretch before the 2014 MLB All-Star Week.

Getting the start for the Rays tonight was Chris Archer, who started the game off almost as flawlessly as you can. He fanned the side in the opening frame and proceeded to strike out a total of five of the first six batters he faced in the game. Arch was even helped out by an early run in the first inning, as Evan Longoria sac flew to bring home Desmond JenningsBut things began to go awry in the third, when the Jays put a three-spot on the board, and followed it up with a tough luck bloop into right field that brought two runs home in the fourth, and gave Toronto a seemingly comfortable 5-1 lead. When all was said and done, it was a pedestrian outing for Archer, as he went five innings and gave up six hits. All five runs were earned, but he did fann seven.

Enter for the Rays Cesar Ramoswho is a candidate for “unsung hero of the night,” as he delivered two innings of hitless baseball (although he did walk one) and struck out a pair, keeping the game within reach for the Rays offense. The offense knocked on the door all night long, as they had base runners reach base in every inning but the fifth, but their persistence finally paid off when Joe Maddon elected to keep Sean Rodriguez in the game to face the right-handed Dustin McGowan with two out and two men on. S-Rod, who had previously been 0-for-4 against McGowan in his career, did what he was called to do and absolutely launched one into the left field seats to tie the game.

Prior to the home run, the Jays pitching staff wasn’t perfect, but they got the job done (til that point, that is) by keeping the runs at bay. The Rays did end a streak from Jays starter Mark Buehrleas for the first time in 14 starts he didn’t go at least six innings. Instead, he went five and allowed nine hits, walked a man, and struck out three.

We skip ahead now to the ninth, when Grant Balfour takes the mound…and that’s all you need to know. Another inning with multiple runs–three to be exact –for the Jays would eventually decide a pretty close and exciting game, as all three of the ninth inning runs were scored the same way the two in the fourth were, on tough-luck bloop hits in right field.

The Rays have to figure out their bullpen situation, or at least, put it on some sort of even keel. You can’t afford to have a great performance like Ramos had to keep the offense within striking distance and Brad Boxberger, who held the game for an inning in the eighth. Or, the problem very well might be Balfour (he was greeted with hometown “booo”s as he left the mound). Whatever it is, if the Rays want to make a second half run, games like this can’t continuously happen.

Tampa Bau will look to draw the series even tomorrow in an afternoon affair, which will see All-Star David Price take the bump (queue the speculation about whether or not it’ll be his last home start) against Toronto righty Drew Hutchisonwho supports a 6-7 record with a 3.86 ERA.