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Rays 7, Tigers 8: Bullpen Pitching Provided More Distress Than Relief

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Tampa Bay Rays blow lead to lose to Detroit Tigers 8-7 in 11 innings

Tampa Bay Rays v Detroit Tigers Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images

The Rays had a five-run lead for a moment in the eighth inning and the bullpen blew it to lose 8-7 to the Tigers in the rubber match of the series.

If today went according to plan for the Rays, they would be the first team in the aMerican League to reach 90 wins. To accomplish that task they sent Luis Patiño (4-3, 4.65) to the mound opposite Tarik Skubal (8-12, 4.30) for the Tigers.

The Rays reinstated pitcher Nick Anderson and outfielder Brett Phillips before the game and wasted no time putting Phillips in the lineup batting ninth and playing center field. In order to make room on the roster, the Rays also placed pitcher Chris Archer on the 10-day IL and designated right-handed relief pitcher Shawn Armstrong for assignment.

Skubal came into today’s game with 154 strikeouts this season. He also was tied with Rays pitcher Shane McClanahan and former Rays pitcher Jake Odorizzi for the longest consecutive game streak with at least four strikeouts by a rookie since 1893.

Skubal was absolutely dominant in the three innings he pitched. He started the game striking out Randy Arozarena and got his second strikeout of the game to Neslon Cruz to close out the first inning. He only allowed two baserunners starting with a walk to Taylor Walls in the second and a single to Arozarena in the third. With a strikeout to Jordan Luplow in the second and three strikeouts in the third he finished with six strikeouts to extend his consecutive game streak with at least four strikeouts to 22, taking sole possession of the longest streak by a rookie since 1893.

Patiño was also off to a strong start for the Rays. Akil Baddoo led off for the Tigers in the first and was quickly returned to the bench, striking out on three pitches. Patiño went on to retire the side in order for both the first inning and the second including two more strikeouts in the second.

The Tigers offense found their way across home plate first in the bottom of the third. Dustin Garneau got things going with a one-out double to right field and advanced to third base on a Patiño wild pitch. That set the stage for a RBI-single from Victor Reyes to give the Tigers a one-run lead. A single from Jonathan Schoop and walk to Robbie Grossman loaded the bases for Detroit with Miguel Cabrera at the plate with two outs. After fouling off the first three pitches and taking a ball on the fourth, Cabrera would ground out to Taylor Walls and get thrown out at first to end what could have been a disastrous inning for the Rays.

Relief pitchers in this game would more appropriately be labeled distress pitchers coming from the bullpen. The first distress signal was the Tigers replacing Skubal with Jose Ureña at the top of the fourth inning. Nelson Cruz led off the inning for the Rays and immediately had Tigers fans second guessing the decision with a solo home run (EV 110.7, LA 24, 400ft) to tie the game 1-1.

In the bottom of the fourth, Jemeir Candelario took the lead back with a solo homer of his own (EV 105.3, LA 40, 375 feet) to give the Tigers a 2-1 lead.

The Tigers offense seemed poised to continue to pounce on the Patiño in the bottom of the fifth. Reyes ledoff with a walk and was moved to third on a single to Baddoo. After getting Schoop to pop out, Patiño was pulled and Louis Head entered the game in relief. The Rays defense turned the 5-6-3 double play to end the inning and kept the Rays within one run through five and that would remain the score until the eighth inning.

The motto of the Rays offense should be better late than never. They came into today’s game with a majors-leading 100 runs scored in the eighth inning and added to that total today. In the top of the eighth, with Jose Cisnero pitching for Detroit, Austin Meadows got things going with a leadoff single. On the immediate next pitch Brett Phillips gave the Rays their first lead of the game on his 11th home run of the season (EV 98.1, LA 35, 384ft).

The Rays offense continued producing with Arozarena and Manuel Margot both getting on base with a hit-by-pitch and walk respectively. Then Yandy Diaz hit a two-run double that deflected off Candelario’s glove to extend the Rays lead to 5-2.

The lead would not last long for the Rays. David Robertson came in for the Rays in the bottom of the eighth and his previous performances mean nothing in today’s game. He expeditiously loaded the bases with the first three batters he faced all hitting singles. That setup Cabrera to hit a fourth consecutive single scoring two runs and trimmed the Rays lead to one run. That trim would be erased two batters later on a throwing error from Brett Phillips that allowed the tying run to score making it a 5-5 game after eight.

Gregory Soto came in to pitch the ninth for the Tigers and Andrew Kittredge for the Rays and both did their jobs in the ninth. Both teams had a baserunner in the ninth and failed to bring them across the plate so what felt like a Rays win turned into an extra-innings game in what felt like a blink of an eye.

In the top of the tenth, the Rays hitters saw some success off Soto. Ji-Man Choi started the game at second base and an intentional walk to Cruz gave the Rays runners at the corners with one out. Diaz hit a first-pitch RBI double scoring Choi and advancing Cruz to third as the Rays try to rally again. A Kiermaier groundout to Soto would score Cruz and give the Rays a 7-5 lead. Surely, this would be how this game would end but the bullpen wasn’t done disappointing.

In the bottom of the tenth Schoop started at second base for the Tigers and Kittredge remained on the mound for the Rays. After getting the first two batters out, he faced Candelario and had a 2-2 count when he left a slider over the plate that got crushed for a two-run home run (EV 106.2, LA 25, 421ft) that tied the game 7-7 after being a strike away from victory.

Kyle Funkhouser relieved Soto in the 11th with Joey Wendle starting at second base. Aside from a Phillips walk it was a quick three outs for the Rays and the feeling that the window of opportunity for a win today felt like it was essentially closed.

J.P. Feyereisen took the mound in the bottom of the 11th inning with Niko Goodrum starting on second base. After getting Eric Haase to flyout, he walked Reyes and Baddoo to load the bases. Hope remained alive for a brief moment as Schoop grounded to Walls who threw to Zunino for the force out at home. The game ended five pitches later with a walk-off walk to Grossman scoring Reyes and ending the game 8-7.

Close losses hurt. Blowing leads hurt more and losing to a walkoff walk might hurt the most. You cannot live and die with each game and it’s important to remember this team is still the best in the American League. That truth doesn’t remove the sting of the day.

Good thing about baseball is tomorrow is another day and the Rays shift their focus to the Toronto Blue Jays. Hopefully tomorrow night’s outcome is better than today’s.