For the second straight day, the Rays hoped to clinch the playoffs with a Ranger's loss and a victory of their own.
Against a punchless Blue Jays' offense missing Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, Melky Cabrera, and Colby Rasmus, the Rays hoped to get at least five solid innings from Chris Archer.
They didn't get them.
Against a very, very mediocre pitcher in J.A. Happ, the Rays hoped the offense could put a few runs on the board.
It didn't happen.
Just as was the case in the 2011 season, the Rays playoff hopes look to come down to the final game of the season as the Rays lost to the Blue Jays 7-1.
The Rays struck first in the first inning. Ben Zobrist led off the game with a drive over Anthony Gose's head in center field for a double. After Sean Rodriguez hit a deep flyball to advance him to third base, Wil Myers rocketed a groundball to third base that Brett Lawrie could not corral. Just like that, the Rays had a 1-0 lead. Neither Evan Longoria nor Delmon Young could extend the inning, so the Rays turned their 1-0 lead over to Chris Archer.
Chris Archer managed to preserve the lead until the third inning, when back to back to back singles with no outs plated a run for the Jays. Maddon had seen enough from the struggling right hander (2.1 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 4 K) so he turned the game over to the bullpen, hoping they could eat 6.2 innings and keep the Rays in the game. Alex Torres retired the next three batters to keep the scored tied at 1-1.
Unfortunately, the Blue Jays offense made up of quite a few AAA quality players had other ideas in mind. They struck for two runs in the fourth off of Jamey Wright. Wright clearly was not feeling it on the mound, as he allowed a two run home run to Ryan Goins (who?) in the fifth inning. Joe Maddon was forced to turn to Brandon Gomes, hoping he could settle the game down like Torres and Wright failed to do. Instead, with a runner on first, Gomes surrendered a two run home run to Kevin Pillar on a hanging slider, giving the Blue Jays a 7-1 lead through five innings.
Meanwhile, the Rays offense was having a miserable time with J.A. Happ. In the second inning, they failed to capitalize on a gift from the Blue Jays. With one out, James Loney hit a towering pop-up on the infield that no Blue Jay defender took charge of, resulting in a double for Loney. A passed ball advanced him to third base, but Jose Molina pitifully struck out looking. Sam Fuld couldn't convert for a two-out RBI when he weakly popped out in foul territory.
After the Loney double, J.A. Happ retired the next eleven batters in a row by relying on his fastball and change-up and by getting right handed batters to chase his curveball low and inside. The Rays next threatened in the top of the sixth inning when Ben Zobrist led off with a single and Sean Rodriguez followed him with a walk. But Wil Myers popped out and Evan Longoria grounded into a double play, ending the threat. The Rays went down in order in the seventh and managed a single in the eighth. Wil Myers led the ninth off with a double and advanced to third base on a flyout by Longoria to the wall. He gave the Rays their second run of the night when he scored on a groundout. J.A. Happ finished the game with 7.1 innings, five hits, one run, one walk, and four strikeouts.
Cesar Ramos quieted the Jays offense with three perfect innings, but by then, it was too late.
A few thoughts...
- I'm not sure I ever want to see Sam Fuld play in a Rays' jersey again. While I appreciate the effort and defense he provides, his hitting is abysmal. Over his MLB career, he is averaging 0.98 WAR per 162 games, with all the value coming from his glove. And while he is a good base runner, he isn't as good of a base stealer, averaging only 16 steals per 162 games.
- Anthony Gose may not be much of a hitter right now, but boy can he cover ground in center field. He has done an excellent job of tracking balls in center field this series, including a well-tagged flyball to the gap by Loney in today's game.
- We have all complained about the easiness of the Indians' and Rangers' late season schedules, but we shouldn't overlook the fact that the Rays have now dropped two games in a row to a mediocre team that is missing most of their good players and wouldn't mind tanking for a better draft pick (and draft pick protection). Props to the team for putting themselves in a good position heading into this series, but it is incredibly frustrating that they can't close out the season against what is really, right now, a AAA level team.