Rays' comeback comes up short again

Second straight loss drops Tampa Bay behind the A's in Wild Card race

September 13th, 2019

ARLINGTON -- The Rays were forced to play catch-up for most of the night Thursday, and for the second night in a row, their comeback bid fell just short as they dropped a 6-4 decision to the Rangers in the last game they'll play at Globe Life Park.

The Rays are a half-game behind Oakland in the American League Wild Card race after the A's took three of four in Houston.

“Everything's magnified right now, so they definitely sting,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said of the two losses in Arlington. “But we don't have time to worry about it too much because now we have to get on a plane and go have a good series against Anaheim. Today, we lost that game early on. It was encouraging that we came back, but two days ago, we had a chance to win it.”

The Rays will spend the next six days -- five games and an off-day -- in the greater Los Angeles area. They start a three-game series with the Angels on Friday, followed by a two-game set with the Dodgers.

Of the two AL Wild Card-leading teams, the Rays have by far the more challenging schedule down the stretch. Three of their five remaining series are against teams above .500 -- the Dodgers, Red Sox and Yankees.

The A’s have two series left with the Rangers, who reached the .500 mark with Thursday's win. But Oakland’s other series are against the Royals, Angels and Mariners, all noncontenders.

Including their win in the opener of the three-game set in Arlington, the Rays had won 11 of 12 and were alone at the top of the Wild Card standings. Cash called the last two losses “a little hiccup.”

“We have a chance to go into Anaheim and fix it,” he said. “We have to fix it, ultimately. We’ve got to get going.”

They weren’t quite able to do that Thursday.

McKay leaves in the fourth
Rookie left-hander Brendan McKay’s outing was a short one. He allowed three runs on six hits over 3 1/3 innings and extended his winless streak to five starts.

“I didn't think he was very sharp, really at all, today,” Cash said. “For whatever reason, the command wasn’t there. He didn't have many walks, but he was behind on so many guys. They got into hitters' counts, and they capitalized on it.”

McKay had a more optimistic view of the outing.

“I thought I threw the ball very well,” he said. “There were some times that counts got deep, but when you're trying to make quality pitches, sometimes it might not end up exactly where you want it.”

McKay, who has 10 career Major League starts and has spent significant time at Double-A Montgomery and Triple-A Durham, had reached 64 pitches by the time he was lifted.

“His pitches got up, figured we were kind of at the end of the rope with the pitch count anyway,” Cash said. “If we felt like we had a better matchup to go to, let's go ahead and do that.”

Solak, again
Things didn’t improve much after McKay’s exit. Peter Fairbanks, who was traded for Nick Solak on July 13, threw a 100-mph fastball to the emerging Rangers star that Solak sent a projected 353 feet to right field for a two-run homer.

Solak went 6-for-11 in the series against the Rays.

“Hopefully he hits the A's like he hits us,” Fairbanks said, cognizant of the A’s pending visit to Arlington this weekend. “I'll buy him as many steaks as he wants if he does the same thing to the A's that he did to us.”

And some good news: Choi sets club record
glided into the Rays' history books with another smooth night at the plate. The burly first baseman set a club record by reaching base safely in 10 straight plate appearances.

After getting on base in all five plate appearances on Wednesday via two homers and three walks, Choi singled in his first at-bat in the second inning Thursday, followed by walks in his next four turns at the plate.

“I'm definitely seeing the ball a lot better,” Choi said through a translator. “I'm not swinging at bad balls.”

“He can get on base, and he does it whether it's a hit or via the walk, whatever way, we'll certainly take the presence in the lineup that he's providing right now,” Cash said. “It seems like a lot of the good things we've done offensively, it's come with him on base or him at the plate.”