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The Top Ten highest leverage outs for the Tampa Bay Rays this decade

Fans may feel their hearts racing, but these pitchers keep their cool

Houston Astros v Tampa Bay Rays Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images

Take a moment and just breathe. Put the worry and stress of your day behind you. Be happy for the things you have, for this break in the baseball season to recuperate.

Because, once baseball returns, so do bullpens.

And with bullpens, there will come those moments where you sit on the edge of your seat, anticipating all the worst things that could happen, all the while hoping for the best.

And then, there it is: the pitch, the result, the end.

There were so many moments over this past decade when a game could be won or lost in a single plate appearance, placing an abnormally high leverage on a single pitch. There were numerous times in which disaster struck and the Rays usually infallible bullpen (unless we’re talking about Dana Eveland (sorry Dana)), surrendered the lead or sometimes even the victory.

However, those times suck and I am choosing to not remember those games (get out of my head, Dana!).

Instead, we’ll take a look back at when the Rays pitching staff did their best Philippe Petit impressions and nailed the coffin of the team that was so steadfastly trying to rise from the dead.

Without further ado, the top ten Rays pitching performance in terms of Leverage Index.

10. Fernando Rodney - 8.28 LI

Date: 7/29/2013

Opponent: Mike Napoli of the Boston Red Sox

Following a fantastic outing from David Price, Fernando Rodney was called upon to nail down the save and push the Rays into first place in the American League East. Things immediately got rocky for Rodney and the Rays as he allowed a leadoff single to Jacoby Ellsbury, who then swiftly snagged second base.

Rodney settled down and retired the next two, then intentionally walked David Ortiz (Jose Iglesias would come on to pinch-run), setting up a first and second situation with Mike Napoli due up.

With Napoli at the plate, Rodney threw a wild pitch to allow the tying run to get to third and the possible winning run to get to second.

Now with the count full, Rodney reared back and challenged Napoli as he hurled an 87 mph circle change that completely fooled the Boston catcher as Napoli flailed and missed the pitch for strike three.

9. Andy Sonnanstine - 8.28 LI

Date: 6/19/2010 (the Vuvuzela game)

Opponent: Dan Uggla of the Florida Marlins

From every account, this game sucked. However, the Rays were able to come out on top, but not before nearly blowing a massive lead in extra innings. With a 5-5 tie in the top of the 11th, former Devil Ray, Jorge Sosa, decided to walk the world and eventually allow four runs to score, giving the Rays a 9-5 advantage.

Not to be outdone however, Lance Cormier entered for the bottom half of the inning and proceeded to allow all five hitters he faced to reach base. Andy Sonnanstine was then called up to hopefully end the Marlins rally. Sonnastine struck out the first two hitters he faced, but now approached slugging second baseman Dan Uggla with the tying run on third and potential winning run on second.

With an 0-1 count, Uggla was able to barrel up the offering from Sonnanstine and lifted a ball to deep right field. Ben Zobrist ranged back and mercifully caught the flyball to end the nearly four hour long, vuvuzela filled contest.

8. Fernando Rodney - 8.29 LI

Date: 5/13/2012

Opponent: Matt Wieters of the Baltimore Orioles

Early on in 2012, Fernando Rodney had shown an incredible flash of dominance. He had discovered control for seemingly the first time of his career and hitters were overwhelmed by his offerings. However, he still ran into trouble.

Rodney came in for the start of the bottom of the 9th of a back-and-forth affair, where the Rays had gotten the advantage, 9-7.

Rodney gave up a leadoff single, then retired the next two hitters with ease. He walked Nick Markakis on four pitches. Adam Jones then bounced a weak groundball to the left side of the infield on which Sean Rodriguez (covering third base for the injured Evan Longoria) made an extremely athletic play.

Unfortunately, Rodriguez overshot his throw and Carlos Pena was only able to nick the errant throw with his glove and sent the ball bouncing down the right field line, allowing a run to score and the tying run to move to third as well as the potential winning run to move up to second base.

Now it was Rodney against Orioles slugger, Matt Wieters. On an 0-1 pitch, Wieters laced a ball to third base that Sean Rodriguez was able to backhand. In a hurry to make the play, Rodriguez bounced the throw but fortunately for him and the Rays, Carlos Pena was able to corral the bounce to retire Wieters and give the Rays the victory.

7. Sergio Romo - 9.19 LI

Date: 6/26/2018

Opponent: Michael A. Taylor of the Washington Nationals

There was some history and tension involved when the Washington Nationals came to town in June, 2018. Just a few games prior, Sergio Romo and Michael A. Taylor had cleared the bench after a verbal spat due to some unwritten rule nonsense as Romo took umbrage with Taylor stealing a base despite the Nationals possessing a large lead.

Now, Romo and Taylor found themselves in another intense situation. After Nate Eovaldi and Max Scherzer dueled for awhile, the Rays found themselves with a 1-0 lead in the 9th. Jose Alvarado had started the inning, and walked the first batter he faced. Then, in some gamesmanship, Kevin Cash placed Alvarado at first base and brought in Chaz Roe. Anthony Rendon struck out against Roe, and then it was Alvarado’s turn again.

Unfortunately, Alvarado allowed back-to-back singles to load the bases with one out. Kevin Cash then officially ended Alvarado’s night as he relieved him with Sergio Romo.

Romo managed to get Trea Turner to pop out to shallow right field, not nearly far enough for Bryce Harper to score from third. And that brings us to the matchup between Sergio Romo and Michael A. Taylor.

Romo just completely overmatched Taylor during the at-bat.

Romo whipped two sliders that were basically the exact same pitch in the exact same spot to start and got a called strike and a foul tip. Then, the next pitch was a slider that was no where near the zone, but having to defend, Taylor half-halfheartedly offered and struck out.

The benches then cleared after some more nonsense (mostly from Romo).

6. Alex Colome - 9.19 LI

Date: 6/11/2017

Opponent: Khris Davis of the Oakland Athletics

In June, 2017, Alex Colome was truly a victim of his own making as he battled through a 5-4 game against the Athletics. Colome retired the first batter of the inning on one pitch, but then labored as he faced the next trio of hitters, allowing all three to reach base. Now with the bases loaded and one out in a one run game, things were at a boiling point.

Fortunately, Colome was able to jam Jed Lowrie and have him pop out harmlessly in front of the Athletics’ dugout, but that brought up fearsome slugger Khris Davis. During the faceoff, Davis just couldn’t figure out ‘El Caballo’ and fell down immediately 0-2. With the count in his favor, Colome unleashed a devastating slider at which Davis offered a mighty swing, whiffing for strike three.

5. Alex Colome - 9.19 LI

Date: 7/8/2017

Opponent: Chris Young of the Boston Red Sox

Following a stellar pitching duel between Rick Porcello and Alex Cobb, the Tampa Bay Rays had taken a 1-0 lead and now it was up to Alex Colome to close things out in the 9th. However, a reoccurring pattern has surfaced regarding Colome and he once again ran into more trouble of his own making.

After a leadoff groundout, Colome yielded a walk and then a double. After a high-leverage strikeout of Hanley Ramirez, Colome intentionally walked Andrew Benintendi to load the bases with two outs for Chris Young.

After getting the count to 2-2, Colome was able to force a cutter in under the hands of Young and produce a popup to shallow center field that Adeiny Hechavarria was able to corral to end the game.

4. Jose Alvarado - 9.19 LI

Date: 7/23/2018

Opponent: Gary Sanchez of the New York Yankees

In a back and fourth game, the Rays had managed to finagle a 7-6 lead heading into the 9th inning, but things were far from over in this contest. Brett Gardner led off with an infield single and then Alvarado’s control issues emerged as he walked Aaron Judge. A sacrifice bunt moved the runner so Alvarado intentionally walked Giancarlo Stanton. After a a bases loaded ground out from Aaron Hicks, it was Gary Sanchez coming up to bat.

Earlier in the game, an apparent lack of hustle from Sanchez had led to a run scoring on a wild pitch. That run now proved to be a major factor in this one-run game. Would Sanchez redeem himself with the bases are loaded?

Three pitches later and Sanchez hit a weak ground ball to the left side of the infield. The Rays defense was shifted to the left side so when Daniel Robertson fielded the ball deep behind second base, he and Willy Adames were an equal distance away from the bag as Hicks hustled to beat the force.

Not deterred, Adames hustled to the bag, but arrived just moments after Hicks had slid in safely. Fortunately, Sanchez had just been watching as Adames hustled toward the bag and by the time he realized Hicks would be safe, it was too late and Adames had fired a strike to first base to end the game. The Yankees were not amused as the Rays celebrated.

3. Alex Colome - 9.20 LI

Date: 6/10/2016

Opponent: Evan Gattis of the Houston Astros

Long before trash can lids became gameday equipment, the Rays engaged the Astros in a tight knit game 2016 at Tropicana Field;again it was Alex Colome who personally set up his own tight rope and carefully toed the line between victory and defeat.

After a nine pitch walk to start the frame, Colome struck out George Springer, but then yielded a single to Marwin Gonzalez; both runners were able to advance with the throw coming home. Jose Altuve was then intentionally walked to load the bases with one away. With no room for error, Colome buckled down and struck out Colby Rasmus on three pitches, to bring up Evan Gattis.

The count reached 0-2 and Colome went into his arsenal and pulled out a nasty slider. Gattis reached desperately for the pitch and tapped a groundball to the left side of the infield. Hearts skipped a beat as Brad Miller fielded the ball and unfurled a throw to first, while on the run. Then, hearts skipped a couple more beats as the ball skipped across the infield. It wasn’t until Steve Pearce dove for the ball, while miraculously keeping his foot on the bag, that fans could finally exhale.

2. Grant Balfour - 10.72 LI

Date: 4/11/2014

Opponent: Brayan Pena of the Cincinnati Reds

David Price absolutely dominated the Reds for most of the game and was en route to a shutout until Joey Votto ruined things with one out in the ninth. Now, with the Rays clinging to a one run lead, Joe Maddon turned to Grant Balfour to relieve the dominant Price.

Balfour promptly struck out Ryan Ludwick, but then just lost all command as he walked one batter...and then a second...and then...a third.

Regardless, Maddon kept faith in his Aussie closer and Balfour, after probably yelling some not so nice expletives at himself, settled down.

After falling behind Reds catcher Brayan Pena, 1-0, Balfour threw two pitches that Pena fouled off. Finally, Balfour was able to freeze Pena on a fastball that caught the outside corner for strike three.

1. Jose Alvarado - 10.85 LI

Date: 4/30/2018

Opponent: Dixon Machado of the Detroit Tigers

Another fantastic pitching duel that was decided by the bullpens on this day in 2018. Jacob Faria and Jordan Zimmermann traded zeroes on the scoreboard for most of the game. The Rays offensive finally broke through against the Tigers in the top of the 9th for three runs and now it would be up to Chaz Roe to end the game for Tampa.

Jose Alvarado’s name is a the headline here, so you may have guessed that Roe wasn’t able to close out the game. Roe would record one out, then load the bases by sandwiching a single between two hit batters.

Jose Alvarado was called up and immediately gave up a two run single to Victor Martinez. A flyout and a walk later, the bases were loaded with Tigers and two were out for Dixon Machado. The count reached 2-2 when Alvarado uncoiled a triple digit fastball that Machado bounced weakly on the ground to short. Daniel Robertson cleanly fielded the ball and simply tossed it to Joey Wendle at second for the force to end the game.