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Tampa Bay Rays Game 149: Somebody Else’s Bullpen Collapse

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It is worth asking what the Tampa Bay Rays are playing for at this point. They would need to win their last 13 games or at least go 12-1 to have any shot at the postseason, and even if they managed to do so, they probably still wouldn’t make it. There are six teams ahead of them for the second Wild Card spot in the American League, and their four-game series with the Boston Red Sox beginning on Monday will be a battle to stay out of last place.

All of the disclaimers aside, though, the Rays desperately needed this win. It wasn’t just about emerging victorious in an inconsequential contest–it was about breaking a mental block and finding some way to enter next year with confidence. The Rays entered this game with one walk-off win versus 12 walk-off losses. Now they are up to two versus 12.

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Jake Odorizzi had been mediocre in his start, letting leads of 1-0 and 4-3 slip away as he gave up 4 runs in 5.2 innings, but it looked like it was going to be something much worse that would cost the Rays this game. With two outs and a runner on first in the eighth inning, Steve Geltz forced Paul Janish to hit a groundball to third base, but it hit off of Evan Longoria‘s glove and went into left field to give Baltimore the lead. Gerardo Parra followed with an RBI single, and suddenly it was 6-4. After Longoria was the victim on Saturday, it was his mistake that was going to be the difference in the game this time.

The Rays were able to get a run back in the bottom of the eighth on an Asdrubal Cabrera sac fly, but they stranded runners on second and third as J.P. Arencibia and Tim Beckham struck out. The Rays had given it a good-faith effort, but once again, they were going to fall short. However, after Xavier Cedeno and Kirby Yates got through the top of the ninth, the Rays will able to find the magic that has been missing all season against excellent Baltimore Orioles closer Zach Britton.

After one pitch, the game was tied. Brandon Guyer pinch-hit for John Jaso and drilled a home run over the wall in center to knot the game at 6. Guyer has been excellent for the Rays all season against left-handed pitching, and his toughest assignment yet–coming off the bench cold to face one of the toughest lefties in baseball–he found a way to deliver. Britton struck out Steven Souza Jr., but then Longoria found some redemption, drilling a triple to right field, his first of the year.

Logan Forsythe was walked intentionally before Richie Shaffer also found a way to walk. Then, after Joey Butler struck out–not everything can turn itself around–Kevin Kiermaier‘s unremitting hustle brought the Rays to victory. Kiermaier hit a soft chopper to second and managed to beat it out, scoring Longoria and prompting a mob behind first base. If we had seen a few more games like this, the Rays would be in the thick of the Wild Card race. Instead, fans will have to settle for this win and the more limited peace of mind that accompanies it.

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Not all regression to the mean is good–Mikie Mahtook, J.P. Arencibia, Joey Butler, and Tim Beckham went a combined 1 for 12 with 7 strikeouts. There was quite a bit of a return to normalcy, however. Longoria broke out of his recent slump by going 3 for 5, Forsythe went back to being an impossible out as he went 2 for 3 with a homer, a double, 2 walks, 3 RBI, and 2 runs scored, and John Jaso went 2 for 4 with a double to begin the game and a run scored. Alex Colome also got past his disastrous outing on Thursday by tossing a scoreless inning working around a walk. We were expecting more games like this back when the 2015 season was approaching rather than departing.

In any event, the Tampa Bay Rays head to Boston tomorrow to start a four-game series with the Red Sox. Chris Archer will be on the mound against Eduardo Rodriguez.

Next: Tampa Bay Rays: A Wasted Season for Desmond Jennings

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