After a month or so of near flawless performances from the Rays bullpen, they failed in back to back games. The Oakland A's scored seven unanswered runs today and the Rays took a 7-3 loss after leading 3-0. After six shutout innings, the Rays finally put three runs on the board thanks to Pat Burrell's two run double. The three runs seemed to be all James Shields would need as "Big Game" was cruising through the first six innings. However, Shields would give up a hit and a walk in the seventh inning and was taken out after just 89 pitches.
Joe Maddon decided to give the ball to Dan Wheeler a day after Wheeler was touched up a bit. Bob Geren countered with Jack Cust off the bench and his move paid off. Cust laced an RBI single and the rout was on. Groundball specialists Randy Choate and Chad Bradford would each give up a hit and after a four run seventh inning the A's had taken the lead for good.
Defacto Closer J.P. Howell had a rough outing allowing three runs on four hits including a home run. Howell and the Rays were on the wrong side of a bad call which had a helping hand in both of the A's eight inning runs. Flat out the Rays bullpen didn't get the job done yesterday or today and the team now goes into the All-Star break on a two game losing streak. On a good note, Pat Burrell seems to have found a bit of his power stroke and is now driving the ball with authority. He came within inches of a home run and had two doubles on the day.
The Rays are now 6.5 back of first place and will finish no better than 3.5 games back of the wildcard headed into the break. I know it is just two games, but a few losses like this out of the break could have the Rays playing the role of sellers come July 31st.