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Cishek miscue costly, but rare for Rays 'pen

Reliever allows first runs since joining Tampa Bay
MLB.com

ST. PETERSBURG -- Steve Cishek and the Rays' bullpen had a rare misfire in Wednesday's 10-6 loss to the Twins, the kind of performance that had become increasingly uncommon since the non-waiver Trade Deadline.

Leading up to that Deadline, Tampa Bay made a number of moves to shore up one of its biggest vulnerabilities. Sergio Romo has produced a 1.99 ERA, and Dan Jennings gave the bullpen an experienced lefty. Cishek has been the most important addition for the bullpen. Until Wednesday, Cishek had not allowed a run in his time with the Rays, spanning 18 appearances.

Full Game Coverage

ST. PETERSBURG -- Steve Cishek and the Rays' bullpen had a rare misfire in Wednesday's 10-6 loss to the Twins, the kind of performance that had become increasingly uncommon since the non-waiver Trade Deadline.

Leading up to that Deadline, Tampa Bay made a number of moves to shore up one of its biggest vulnerabilities. Sergio Romo has produced a 1.99 ERA, and Dan Jennings gave the bullpen an experienced lefty. Cishek has been the most important addition for the bullpen. Until Wednesday, Cishek had not allowed a run in his time with the Rays, spanning 18 appearances.

Full Game Coverage

That changed with one errant throw. Jorge Polanco popped up a bunt between the mound and the plate in the seventh inning of a tied game. Cishek gathered the ball and uncorked a throw that bounced into the Rays' bullpen up the right-field line.

Video: MIN@TB: Polanco bunts, Dozier comes home on error

"The ball bunted, and [Cishek] kind of checked up and allowed the guy to get down the line who had some speed," manager Kevin Cash said. "I'm not sure if we even get the guy. But yeah, I don't know if he rushed it or got underneath it a little bit."

Brian Dozier scored from first base. Eduardo Escobar drove in Polanco with a single, and a third run was credited to Cishek after he was replaced.

Cishek took the loss in his third day of work in a row. He was already the third reliever in the game, as Cash pulled starter Blake Snell four-plus innings and 18 batters into his afternoon.

With the Rays chasing the Twins and a handful of other teams in the American League Wild Card standings, the early exit was reminiscent of a postseason game approach. An important game to win was at hand, so Cash turned to one of his most dependable relievers. There could be more sightings of short leashes for starters as the month goes on due to both the expanded September rosters and the growing importance of each game.

"We're going to use our bullpen without a doubt, especially given how some starts go," Cash said. "But the expanded rosters, it's interesting. You don't like it when it's done to you, but you like to be able to have those options when they're available to help you win a game."

Video: MIN@TB: Cash on Rays' toughness in loss to the Twins

The revamped bullpen has shown to be deserving of that trust. Tampa Bay's relievers had placed in the bottom half of the league in most meaningful categories during the first half of the season, but they became one of the MLB's best in August.

The most dramatic turnaround: stranding runners, a crucial element for mid-inning changes. Rays relievers left 69.5 percent of runners on base in the first half, second worst in the Majors. With its new stable of arms, the Rays stranded 85.2 percent in August, the third best mark.

Cishek didn't get the job done Wednesday, but it's just one blemish in 19 outings. He will rebound, and the Rays will continue to lean on him as part of the bridge tasked with finishing the important ballgames they hope lead to the postseason.

Connor Mount is a reporter for MLB.com based in St. Petersburg.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Tampa Bay Rays, Steve Cishek