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Rays stunned by 7-run 9th, lose ground in WC

Romo allows walk-off shot to Smoak; Pham goes 3-for-5 with 2 RBIs
September 20, 2018

TORONTO -- A six-run lead entering the ninth inning wasn't enough for the Rays, who allowed the Blue Jays to come all the way back before Justin Smoak's walk-off home run dealt Tampa Bay a 9-8 loss on Thursday night at Rogers Centre.Jaime Schultz allowed four runs, retiring only one

TORONTO -- A six-run lead entering the ninth inning wasn't enough for the Rays, who allowed the Blue Jays to come all the way back before Justin Smoak's walk-off home run dealt Tampa Bay a 9-8 loss on Thursday night at Rogers Centre.
Jaime Schultz allowed four runs, retiring only one batter before he was chased after surrendering a three-run homer to Danny Jansen.
"Fell behind to good hitters and then couldn't put people away," Schultz said. "Thought I made some decent pitches that they fought off pretty hard and then just gave up the big one."
Needing a pair of outs, Rays manager Kevin Cash turned to closer Sergio Romo, who didn't fare any better. He allowed a bloop single to Kendrys Morales that brought the tying run to the plate.
"Perfectly placed," Mallex Smith said of Morales' hit. "We played deeper just to protect the double and then a pop-up right in between us and the infield. It landed, can't do nothing about it."

Lourdes Gurriel Jr. followed with a home run to tie the game, then Smoak took a low first-pitch changeup over the right-field wall to end the night.
"It's obviously disappointing," Matt Duffy said. "The pitching staff has carried us for a large part of the season, so you try to digest this as quickly as you can and move on to the next day."

It was a crushing loss for Tampa Bay, which fell 6 1/2 games back of the second American League Wild Card place, after the Oakland Athletics defeated the Los Angeles Angels, 21-3, earlier in the day.
"This one definitely puts us in a very difficult position," Duffy said. "Mathematically we're still in it, so we're going to keep going until this thing is over."
A five-run seventh inning looked like it would be enough. Tommy Pham gave the Rays a two-run lead when he scored Smith from third on an infield hit. The big blow of the inning came four batters later, when C.J. Cron hit two-out three-run single. The first baseman hit a pop fly to left-center field with a 83 percent hit probability, according to Statcast™. But left fielder Billy McKinney couldn't get to the ball, allowing Pham, Joey Wendle and Kevin Kiermaier to score.

Kiermaier went first to third on the play in 9.91 seconds, running at a top sprint speed of 30.0 feet per second, according to Statcast™ -- approximately one foot per second faster than his 28.9 average sprint speed.

Pham finished the game 3-for-5 with a pair of RBIs and two runs scored. He extended his on-base streak to 22 games and has continued his tear with the Rays, hitting .339 in 29 games since joining Tampa Bay on July 31st.

Ryne Stanek made his 27th appearance as the Rays' opener. He pitched one-plus innings and was pulled after allowing a two-run homer to Rowdy Tellez. The appearance marked the 50th time the Rays have used an opener this year.
Yonny Chirinos followed Stanek with 4 2/3 innings, allowing no runs and striking out five against one walk and one hit. It snapped his streak of eight straight appearances of five or more innings pitched, the longest of any reliever in the modern era.

The loss snapped a five game winning streak for the Rays and was the team's eighth walk-off loss of the season.
• Meadows called up, makes pinch-hit debut
Rays only score one in sixth: Tampa Bay had a chance for a big sixth inning with the bases loaded and just one out, but both Cron and Carlos Gomez couldn't make the most of their pinch-hitting opportunities. The Rays finished the inning only scoring one when Willy Adames cashed in Ji-Man Choi earlier in the frame.

The Rays have been running wild since the All-Star break. They swiped a season-high four bags against the Blue Jays and are second in the Majors with 57 stolen bases since the break, trailing the Royals with 58.

Diego Castillo (3-2, 3.14 ERA) will open for the Rays at 7:07 p.m. ET on Friday in the second of four games at Rogers Centre. The 24-year-old has posted a 2.57 ERA in nine starts as an opener this year and has a 0.84 ERA in September. Blue Jays rookie right-hander Sean Reid-Foley (2-3, 5.54) will make his first career start against the Rays.

Aaron Rose is a reporter for based in Toronto.