Coming off their first series loss in over a month and facing an immediate future without ace righty Tyler Glasnow, the Rays needed a win to get back on track Thursday.
And for eight-plus innings, it seemed like the Rays were on the verge of just that -- riding their bullpen, timely hitting and smart baserunning to a lead.
But it all fell apart when closing pitcher Pete Fairbanks issued a four-pitch walk to Dylan Moore and allowed a single from Jake Bauers. Shed Long Jr. doubled in the tying run and a pinch-hit from Kyle Seager finished the job, singling home the winning run and walking off the Rays in the 6-5 loss at T-Mobile Park.
“I thought the intent was there,” manager Kevin Cash said about Fairbanks’ fastball command. “He couldn't quite command the baseball and the margin of error is really non-existent when you're pitching with a one-run lead.”
Fairbanks’ walk to Moore was on four straight missed fastballs, Bauers’ single was on a fastball and Seager’s winning hit came via the fastball.
“Four-pitch walks don’t work,” Fairbanks said.
The loss marked the Rays’ second walk-off loss as many days and their third straight loss. The last time that the Rays, who now stand at 43-27, good enough for a half-game lead in the AL East, lost three in a row was April 29-May 1.
“Yeah, no [there’s] disappointment,” Cash said. “… Yesterday, we come back from a five-run deficit -- whatever it was -- and today we had a lead, and we gave it up.
“We don't do that very often. [With] the run we've been on, it's almost surprising when it happens, so it is frustrating.”
Randy Arozarena, who opened the game with a unique single via throwing the bat at the ball, put the Rays up early with a two-run homer, his 10th of the season. He added a stolen base and two runs scored in a 3-for-4 day at the plate.
Arozarena’s hit streak now stands at 12 games.
The Rays added insurance runs in the fifth and sixth innings, via an RBI sacrifice fly from Joey Wendle and an infield single from Kevin Kiermaier, respectively.
Starting pitcher Rich Hill departed after five-plus innings, having allowed four earned runs, three of which came via home runs, including a two-run homer from Ty France on a hanging 70.1 mph curveball that knocked him out of the game, and trimmed the Rays’ three-run lead to just one and set the stage for the walk-off loss.
“The two home run balls, I thought the fastball was a good pitch, but the curveball was a hanger, so it was the difference in the game,” Hill said, “and would have given us a little bit more space if I hadn’t [made] that pitch.”
Hill has allowed eight earned runs over his last two outings, after previously allowing just three in all of May and one start in June, en route to winning the American League Pitcher of the Month Award.
“That falls solely on me, [I] take full responsibility for it,” Hill added. “ ... That’s what each job as a starting pitcher -- you give the team a chance to win, you could’ve given them a better chance. That's tough to swallow.”
It’s a rough stretch for the Rays, who are currently in the midst of a 10-game stretch without an off-day, including seven on the road, especially after a 22-6 May that saw them close out on a five-game win streak.
Tampa Bay’s bullpen entered the evening with an AL-best 2.94 ERA and an 0.70 ERA since June 2. A loss like Thursday’s isn’t one the Rays are accustomed, but one they will look to turn the page on quickly.
“These guys have been throwing the ball great,” Hill said. “The bullpen [has] been the backbone of this entire team, so just continue to keep going out there and putting our best effort in every single night.”