Rodney, bullpen can't contain Blue Jays late
Closer gives up tying shot in ninth; Farnsworth allows winning hit in 10th
TORONTO -- Nobody could deny that Joey Bats was locked in; Jose Bautista indeed is special. The aggravating part came in the fact that the same old story continues to play out for the Rays: Get the lead, blow the lead, lose the game.
The Blue Jays took a 4-3 win in 10 innings over the Rays at Rogers Centre on Wednesday afternoon to claim the rubber game of the three-game series.
The Rays finished their six-game road trip to Baltimore and Toronto with a 4-2 mark, while falling to 24-22 on the season.
James Loney's RBI single had just put the Rays ahead in the top of the ninth, Jeremy Hellickson had just logged his best outing of the season and Fernando Rodney entered the game hoping to be the arrow-shooting Rodney of 2012 and not the inconsistent model he has evolved into this season.
On Tuesday night, Rodney had taken care of business in the Rays' 4-3 win by recording a five-out save. Trying to retire Bautista was his first order of business in the bottom of the ninth Wednesday.
The Blue Jays slugger had driven in all of his team's runs to that point with a first-inning single and a fourth-inning home run. He kept that statistic alive when he re-routed a 98-mph fastball and planted it in the left-field stands to tie the game at 3.
"I think I made a good pitch," Rodney said. "He hit a good pitch. When you have a type of hitter like Bautista, you make a good pitch, they hit your best pitch. Nothing you can do. [The pitch was a] fastball, middle in. I don't know how he hit it. That's where I wanted it. That's what I'm looking for."
Bautista would not swing and tell about his approach against Rodney.
"I think I have a different approach than everybody else," Bautista said. "I feel pretty comfortable at the plate when he's on the mound. That's pretty much all I can say about that."
One out later, Adam Lind drew a walk and Rodney was finished after just 14 pitches.
Joel Peralta took over and struck out J.P. Arencibia before Brett Lawrie popped out to send the game into extra innings.
Rays manager Joe Maddon sent Cesar Ramos to the mound in the 10th and the left-hander got off to a rough start when Colby Rasmus reached safely after putting down a bunt. Catcher Jose Molina fielded the ball and threw to first, but Loney dropped the throw. The play was ruled a single.
Rasmus moved to second on Emilio Bonifacio's sacrifice, then to third when Munenori Kawasaki grounded out. After pinch-hitter Mark DeRosa walked to bring Bautista to the plate, the Rays countered by calling for Kyle Farnsworth.
The hard-throwing right-hander got ahead in the count 0-2 when he threw Bautista a fastball out of the strike zone. Rather than take ball one, Bautista poked the ball into right field for a single to drive home Rasmus for the win.
"I made a good pitch on him," Farnsworth said. "I just tip my hat to him. This was just one of those days for him. He had a great day. I made a real good pitch, shattered his bat, just a blooper over to right field. He rarely hits the ball that way."
Bautista finished his one-man assault on the Rays with four hits in four at-bats, two home runs, four RBIs, a walk and two runs scored.
While the Rays could salute Bautista for his excellence, the results he produced were nothing new to this year's Rays squad. The team has blown 28 leads after just 18 at this time last year. Nine leads have been blown in the seventh inning or later, which has led to seven losses. And the Rays have blown four leads in the ninth, and three of those blown leads have turned into losses.
Manager Joe Maddon and company understand that the trend must cease if the team wants to achieve what it hopes to this season. Tampa Bay simply cannot waste starting pitching performances like the one Hellickson put forth Wednesday.
"The whole season has been a little upside down," Maddon said. "The offense has contributed and we've still played wonderful defense. It's just that the pitching, where it's normally making sense, it's not making sense. We have to keep putting the guys out there at the appropriate times and wait for it to work. There's no other way to do it. There's no other options. This is the way it has to work. You have to stay with it and show support."
Last season's bullpen posted historic numbers, which is why there has been so much head-scratching about the results accrued this season from essentially the same group.
"You just have to keep going," Farnsworth said. "These days are going to come. And hopefully, eventually, we're going to come out of it. ... The talent's definitely down there. We've done it before. We just have to keep our heads up and keep battling and going at it."