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For third straight day, Rays can't finish comeback

In a game full of turning points, here are four critical ones
@juanctoribio
April 20, 2019

ST. PETERSBURG -- Rays manager Kevin Cash referred to Saturday’s 6-5 loss to the Red Sox as “two good teams going back and forth.” It was the third consecutive game in which the Rays erased a multi-run deficit in the late innings, but the comeback fell short again as the

ST. PETERSBURG -- Rays manager Kevin Cash referred to Saturday’s 6-5 loss to the Red Sox as “two good teams going back and forth.”

It was the third consecutive game in which the Rays erased a multi-run deficit in the late innings, but the comeback fell short again as the Rays dropped their third straight and lost a series for the first time this season.

Let’s take a look at four key moments from Saturday night’s competitive battle between the Rays and Red Sox.

Benintendi opens up the lead
With the Red Sox up 1-0, Andrew Benintendi delivered the first big blow of the game with a second-inning grand slam off Rays starter Charlie Morton.

Morton, who has been unhappy with his control over the past couple of starts, had a pair of walks in the second inning and hit Sandy Leon to drive in the first run of the game. Benintendi wasted no time after the hit-by-pitch and jumped on the first pitch from Morton, taking the right-hander deep to left-center field.

“I was just looking for a heater,” Benintendi said. “I know I struck out on a pitch over my head my first at-bat, and I figured he might try to go back up there. I was just trying to set my sights up to try and drive it.”

While Benintendi struck the ball well with an exit velocity of 103.4, there was some controversy on the play as it appeared a fan reached over the fence to catch the ball. After the review, the umpiring crew decided that there was no fan interference.

“It looked like he reached over,” said Rays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier, who was closest to the play. “I don’t think they had a good camera angle. … Maybe my eyes were wrong -- it really looked like the fan caught that hanging out over. I could be wrong, but from what my eyes told me right there, I didn’t hesitate when I wanted them to take a look at it.”

Diaz comes through
When Benintendi connected on his grand slam, the Rays had an 11.2 percent win expectancy, according to FanGraphs data. But after spending the entire night chipping away at Boston's lead, Yandy Díaz came through with his fifth home run of the season, tying the game at 5 in the eighth inning.

After the home run, the Rays had a 60.5 percent chance of winning -- until the Red Sox answered back in the top of the ninth inning.

“We all felt good. It just didn’t happen,” Cash said. “We answer, we kept them quiet, we answered back kind of gradually, piece it together, and then they come back and answer.”

Red Sox get to Alvarado
José Alvarado has been one of the best relievers in baseball and had not allowed a run entering Saturday’s game, but the defending champions were able to add a run against the Rays’ best option out of the bullpen.

Jackie Bradley Jr. opened the ninth inning with a single off Alvarado. Then Michael Chavis, who was making his Major League debut, came through with a double that moved Bradley up to third base with one out. Benintendi followed with a sacrifice fly to give the Red Sox the 6-5 lead.

“Just get him in any way you can, honestly,” Benintendi said of his mind-set in that situation. “That guy is tough. Ideally would like to get something to the outfield like what happened, but at that point you’ll take anything.”

Vazquez picks off Pham
The Rays had a chance to tie it in the ninth. With two runners on, two outs and Willy Adames at the plate, Red Sox catcher Christian Vazquez set up the defense to call a first-base pickoff play against Rays outfielder Tommy Pham.

Pham was caught too far off the base, and Steve Pearce applied the tag after a strong throw from Vazquez.

“It was a really well-executed play on their part,” Cash said. “That’s probably the best I can say. They made a good play.”

Pham stood by his locker after the game and took full responsibility for getting caught.

“All I’m going to say is I [messed] up and that’s it,” Pham said. “Nothing else to say. I messed up.

“You have to learn from your mistakes. That’s how life is, and the game of baseball. Just learn from it and don’t let it happen again.”

Juan Toribio covers the Rays for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @juanctoribio.