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Rays 5, Twins 6: The comeback was nice but not enough

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The Tampa Bay Rays fell behind early and blew a lead late to fall to the Minnesota Twins missing an opportunity for their 14th series sweep of the season.

Minnesota Twins v Tampa Bay Rays Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images

The brooms were ready, the bats and gloves were not.

After trailing early, the Tampa Bay Rays came from behind to take a lead before ultimately falling to the Minnesota Twins 6-5.

Luis Patiño was the starter for the Rays opposite Griffin Jax for the Twins. The Rays came into the game with the best record in the American League and tied for the best record in baseball.

The game started off with Luis Arraez working a seven-pitch at-bat against Patiño that ended with a spectacular catch by Wander Franco at shortstop (xBA .750). It only took seven additional pitches for Patiño to strikeout Byron Buxton and Jorge Polanco.

The Rays bats were off to a slow start in the bottom of the first inning. Brandon Lowe had a flyout on the first pitch from Jax to left field. Wander Franco would follow with a groundout to third and Nelson Cruz would finish the 1-2-3 inning with a flyout of his own.

Patiño continued to look good through the first two batters in the second inning getting Josh Donaldson to pop out and striking out Max Kepler. Then things started to get a little shaky. Nick Gordon got on base with a line drive to center field for a double and scored on a single from Jake Cave in the next at-bat. A single to Ben Rortvedt and a walk to Williams Astudillo loaded the bases for for Arraez. A single from Arraez scored Cave and Rortbedt to give the Twins a 3-0 lead early. After allowing five consecutive men on base, Buxton hits a line drive to Austin Meadows to close out the half-inning and stop the bleeding for the Rays.

In the third inning the Twins kept the offensive momentum going with a single from Donaldson. A wild pitch from Patiño moved Donaldson to third and a walk to Kepler gave the Twins runners at the corners. After a Gordon out, Cave singled to right field scoring Donaldson and extended the Twins lead to 4-0. After walking Rortvedt, Patiño was pulled for J.P. Feyereisen. Patiño finished with a disappointing 2.2 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 3 BB, 4 SO on 73 pitches.

The Rays offense got some life in the bottom of the third starting with Kevin Kiermaier leading off with a single. Following a Mike Zunino groundout, Brandon Lowe hit a home run to right field (99.5 EV, 24 LA, 365 feet) making it a 4-2 game. Suddenly what felt like a blowout in the making became a game that felt like yet another game the Rays could make a comeback in.

In the fifth inning, it felt like the momentum and outcome of the game shifted towards the Rays. Lowe hit a single and advanced to second on a wild pitch from Jax. After a Franco strikeout to put two outs on the board in the inning, Nelson Cruz hit a grounder to right field scoring Lowe and bringing the game within one run.

Following the Cruz single, Twins made a pitching change and brought in Caleb Thielbar to replace Jax. Austin Meadows certainly approved of the change as he hit a two-run home run (100.8 EV, 26 LA, 397 ft) to give the Rays a 5-4 lead. At the moment it was hard to imagine the Rays would lose this game after overcoming the 4-0 deficit but there was still plenty of game to be played.

In the top of the seventh inning, the Rays put Pete Fairbanks in the game and things started to go downhill. It started with a single by Buxton followed by a walk to Polanco. After a mound visit, things looked a little better with back-to-back line outs by Donaldosn and Kepler. Then Gordon came to the plate and continued to be a thorn to the Rays in this game hitting a single just off Franco’s glove scoring Buxton and tying the game at five. Gordon would steal second base but a groundout by Rob Refsnyder would end the inning.

The Rays had a double from Franco in the seventh and a single from Joey Wendle in the eighth but would not add any more runs before the ninth. After hitting his single, Wendle was caught stealing and it started to feel like the game could be getting away from the Rays.

With that said, Andrew Kittredge was on the mound for the Rays in the ninth and if there is any Rays reliever to have faith in, it’s Kittredge. After one pitch, the first out of the inning was recorded on a groundout from Polanco. Next, Donaldson hit a double and would move to third on a Kittredge wild pitch putting the game at-risk. The Rays intentionally walked Kepler bringing Gordon to the plate. Gordon singled to center field allowing Donaldson to score and the Twins took the lead back 6-5 in the ninth. After Ryan Jeffers reached base safely on a fielder’s choice, the Twins had bases loaded with two outs. An Astudillo groundout kept hope alive with the Rays trailing by one.

Former Rays’ pitcher Alex Colomé was on the mound for the Twins in the bottom of the ninth inning. Kiermaier led off with a single but Mike Zunino would ground into a double play in the next at-bat. With two outs, Lowe walked giving the Rays another baserunner and was replaced by Manuel Margot as a pinch runner. Margot successfully stole second base and moved to third on a single from Wander Franco. Unfortunately for the Rays, the game would end on a flyout from Nelson Cruz and the Twins win 6-5.

The game was a loss but the Rays still win the series and have a comfortable cushion in the division as we march closer to the postseason.

The Rays travel to Boston tomorrow with a 1:10pm start for some Labor Day baseball.