Rays run themselves into a stinging loss

Four outs on bases cost Tampa Bay chances to pull away in Texas

September 12th, 2019

ARLINGTON – Not all games are the same over the course of a 162-game season, and even bona fide contenders are going to run into nights they’d prefer to forget. The Rays had one of those on Wednesday night against the Rangers, and while they’ll move on and shrug this off as one that got away, it may sting a little more, given how few games are left in the season and how high the stakes are every time the Rays take the field.

Rougned Odor's three-run homer off reliever sent the Rays to a 10-9 loss to Texas at Globe Life Park, halting Tampa Bay's winning streak at six games. More importantly, the loss also narrowed Tampa Bay’s lead in the American League Wild Card race to a half-game over the A's, who beat the Astros in Houston.

Prior to Odor's homer, the Rays spent most of the game grasping onto an 8-7 lead, after both teams did most of their damage in the first couple of innings. The Rays were down 7-2 but tied it with a five-run second, and for the next four innings it looked as if they were going to sneak away with one of those ugly wins that won't exactly be remembered for proper execution and sound fundamentals, but still count.

Instead, the Rays will likely look back at this loss as one of missed opportunities, spurred mostly by baffling baserunning.

“Our baserunning has gotten really, really good over the last couple of weeks,” manager Kevin Cash said. “Tonight, it kind of came to a head. We ended some scoring opportunities with probably some over-aggressive baserunning.”

They ran into four outs on the bases. Matt Duffy was caught in a 2-5-1-6 rundown that ended their rally-inspired second. Guillermo Heredia was picked off and caught stealing second base. Ji-Man Choi was picked off second by a pinpoint throw from Rangers catcher Jose Trevino to shortstop Elvis Andrus in the seventh, and later in the inning, Johnny Davis -- in his Major League debut, pinch-running for Duffy -- dodged two pickoff attempts by Ian Gibaut before the Rangers reliever finally nabbed him.

“It was a tough game today,” Choi said through a translator. “It was a long game, and everyone was doing their best to catch up. The out that I got with the pickoff and the home run we gave up at the end, that was kind of disappointing.”

Davis, who before the game was brimming with excitement to have received his first big league callup, unquestionably had a debut he won’t soon forget. This just wasn’t what he had in mind.

Not only was he picked off, but before that, he lost his footing after breaking for second on a would-be stolen base attempt. He fell about a third of the way down the line but scampered back to first just after Trevino’s throw reached second base.

“Me losing my footing, I took away a stolen base from myself and took away us possibly scoring a run, and [it’s a] different outcome in the game if I get to second base and we score a run there,” Davis said. “I just have to be better.”

There were bright spots, however. The Rangers sent 12 men to the plate and scored seven runs in the first inning, but they were silenced for the next five innings, largely due to lockdown pitching by Austin Pruitt, who was tagged before the game as the likely "bulk" pitcher. The right-hander, who has been up and down from the Minor Leagues nine times this year, held the Rangers to one hit over 3 1/3 innings.

And the Rays’ offense punched back almost immediately after the Rangers piled on during their big inning.

“That was impressive,” Cash said. “Really, really encouraging, what we did. We got down and we were frustrated because we couldn't execute pitches. There were a lot of walks. The defense got off the field, and we were pretty determined to get right back in the game. It showed.”

“After the [first] inning changed, we were all encouraging each other that we still had eight more [innings] left to catch up,” said Choi, who hit two homers, marking his second career multi-homer game. “Everyone was getting cheered up and getting encouraged for each other. I think that's why we're able to do it.”