Rays threaten, but struggle to follow through

Nate Lowe optioned to Triple-A Durham

May 8th, 2019

ST. PETERSBURG -- Despite rallying to tie the game in the ninth inning on an RBI single by Kevin Kiermaier, the Rays were unable to complete the three-game sweep over the D-backs, dropping Wednesday’s finale at Tropicana Field, 3-2 in 13 innings.

The Rays scored 18 runs through the first two games of the series against the Diamondbacks, but the bats were held quiet on Wednesday by starter Robbie Ray, who allowed just four hits and struck out 11 over 5 2/3 innings of work.

Tampa Bay had multiple opportunities throughout the game, with the best chance coming in the eighth inning, where the Rays had bases loaded with no outs against the Diamondbacks bullpen.

Yandy Diaz opened the eighth inning with a walk, which was followed by a Tommy Pham opposite field single to give the Rays a threat. A throwing error by Eduardo Escobar helped Diaz score the lone run of the inning for the Rays and moved Pham up to third base. Yoshihisa Hirano followed the error by hitting Avisail Garcia in the left shoulder loading the bases with nobody out.

Mike Zunino grounded into a fielder’s choice for the first out of the inning and then D-backs manager Torey Lovullo called on left-hander T.J. McFarland to get the final two outs of the inning and he delivered, striking out Brandon Lowe and getting Willy Adames to line out to end the threat.

“Have to find a way to score, but we just didn’t,” said Rays manager Kevin Cash. “They made some big pitches and we just couldn’t capitalize. They just made some big pitches. You have to credit their bullpen after Ray came out of the game, those guys really did a nice job of limiting a lot of opportunities for us.”

The Rays also had opportunities in the 11th and 12th inning, but just couldn’t come up with the big hit. Tampa Bay went 1-for-16 with runners in scoring position and left 11 runners on base.

“Impressed with the way we put the pressure on,” Cash said. “Ultimately [Kiermaier] comes up and gets a huge hit and then from there, it seemed like we had some more momentum going, but we just couldn’t quite capitalize.”

The Rays offense also had a tough time putting the ball in play on Wednesday, striking out 23 times, which was just one strikeout shy of tying a franchise record.

“Just a lot of strikeouts for us offensively,” said Pham, who went 2-for-3 with three walks on Wednesday. “We have to do a better job controlling the strike zone.”

Rays starter Charlie Morton allowed just two runs Wednesday, but the right-hander struggled with his command, tying a season-high with four walks over five innings of work. Morton threw 86 pitches, 52 for strikes, and struck out eight with six of the punchouts coming on the curveball.

“I thought Charlie battled a little bit,” Cash said. “But Charlie has been really good for us and I expect him to bounce back with no problem.”

Tampa Bay is now 0-4 in extra inning games this season, but despite the loss, the Rays came away with their ninth series win of the season and now prepare to host the Yankees for a three-game set this weekend.

“It’s one of those things where we won another series, which is a good thing,” Cash said. “We’ll get back at it after the off day.”

N. Lowe optioned

After the game on Wednesday, the Rays announced that they have optioned first baseman Nate Lowe to Triple A-Durham. The corresponding move will come before Friday’s game against the Yankees.

Lowe made a good impression on Cash and the Rays, hitting .257 in 35 at-bats in his first stint at the big league level. The decision to option Lowe appears to clear a path for the Rays to activate outfielder Austin Meadows, who has been on the injured list since April 20 with a fractured right thumb.

“He played [Wednesday],” Cash said, when asked about Meadows. “I heard all went well. We’ll get him back in here probably [Thursday] and check him out.”