Cash sums up Rays' 12-inning loss: 'Irritating'

Trying to protect lead in 11th, Tampa Bay suffers costly defensive lapse

May 15th, 2024

BOSTON -- The ball was chopped right into the dirt in front of home plate, then took an easy bounce into the waiting glove of Rays reliever Manuel Rodríguez. As David Hamilton hustled home and Jarren Duran took off for second base, Rodríguez turned to second, thinking he could turn a game-ending double play. But there was nobody there.

Rodríguez froze, looked home, spun back and glanced toward second again, still holding the baseball in his right hand. Rather than turning a double play or cutting down the tying run at the plate, all the right-hander could do was toss the ball to Yandy Díaz at first base, retiring Rob Refsnyder as Hamilton scored the tying run in the 11th inning Tuesday night against the Red Sox at Fenway Park.

That defensive gaffe loomed large when Rodríguez allowed a walk-off single to Romy Gonzalez in the 12th, delivering the Rays a tough 5-4 defeat that manager Kevin Cash summarized with one word.

“Irritating,” Cash said.

The Rays suffered their third walk-off loss of the season and their fourth defeat in their past six games, which put them a game under .500 at 21-22. It might have been a different story altogether if not for the miscommunication and misunderstanding on Refsnyder’s comebacker to Rodríguez, which left plenty of blame to go around and plenty of people willing to take it.

First, consider the situation.

After starter Aaron Civale allowed three runs over five innings in his first start at Fenway Park -- a meaningful homecoming of sorts for the right-hander -- the Rays tied the game in the sixth. Tampa Bay’s bullpen delivered a masterful performance after that, keeping the game tied heading into the 11th.

With runners on first and second and two outs in the 11th, Isaac Paredes hit a routine grounder to Ceddanne Rafaela. The shortstop didn’t seem to get a good grip on the ball in his glove and bounced an off-target throw past first base. The Rays capitalized on the misplay, as Randy Arozarena jogged home to give them a 4-3 lead. Then they committed one of their own.

After a sacrifice bunt and a walk, the Red Sox had runners on the corners with one out. Aligning their defense for a potential play at the plate, the Rays drew their infield in.

Cash said there was no thought of turning a double play in that scenario, and Rodríguez “ideally” should have immediately thrown the ball home so catcher Ben Rortvedt could tag out Hamilton. With the infield in, the priority became getting the out at home. Cash blamed himself for not relaying that in advance.

“That’s probably on me as much as anybody -- not communicating, letting the guys know where everybody was positioned,” Cash said. “We were playing in to get the out at home, Manny popped up and obviously got a little lost on where to throw the ball.”

Rortvedt said he perhaps could have been a little more vocal calling for the ball, but he immediately hopped in front of the plate to get in position. Second baseman Richie Palacios pointed home, but by the time Rodríguez turned back, it was too late to have a shot at nailing the speedy Hamilton.

“I think his first instinct was [to] try to turn a double play at second, which would probably end the game,” Rortvedt said. “But we were playing in, so no one was covering the bag. So his only choice at that point in time was to go to first.”

Palacios initially thought Refsnyder’s chopper was coming his way, so his first step was in. That made it even more unlikely he could get back to the bag when Rodríguez surprisingly turned his way. Palacios took the blame for that, regardless.

“Honestly, that was 100 percent my fault,” Palacios said. “I should have tried to get back to the bag and get that double play, and I didn't do that there.”

Ultimately, the responsibility fell on Rodríguez. He said he thought he had the option to go to second for the double play. Even after seeing Palacios move in, Rodríguez said, he thought shortstop Amed Rosario might cover the bag to start a game-ending double play.

“I think that was my error, and it cost us the game,” Rodríguez said through interpreter Manny Navarro. “Richie was screaming to go home, and I didn't act on that.”

Of course, the Rays didn’t help themselves out at the plate, either. They struck out a season-high 15 times, went 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position and managed just one run in three extra innings with an automatic runner at second base. One run wasn’t enough.

“It's tough to win these extra-inning games with just one run,” Cash said. “You’ve got to do everything perfect, and we did not do that tonight.”