'We'll take that': Wacha deals despite loss, ending winning streak

May 26th, 2024

ST. PETERSBURG -- Once 's perfect-game bid evaporated in the sixth inning, Sunday’s game turned into a perfectly fine mess for the Royals.

The Rays knocked out Wacha in the seventh, then pounced on the bullpen for a four-run inning to seal the Royals’ 4-1 loss at Tropicana Field, ending Kansas City’s season-high eight-game winning streak.

Wacha was perfect through five -- 15 up, 15 down -- and his slider was baffling the Rays. But José Caballero led off the sixth with a clean double down the third-base line for Tampa Bay’s first baserunner.

“I was aware of [the perfect game],” Wacha said. “I was trying to stay focused and keep making quality pitches.”

Wacha escaped from the inning, but needed 33 pitches. He told pitching coach Brian Sweeney he was OK to come back out for the seventh, but Wacha promptly surrendered a broken-bat bloop single and double down the left-field line to leave with runners on second and third.

“I was a little winded [after the sixth], but felt like I was able to get my legs underneath me,” Wacha said. “I felt confident going out there, but I put [the bullpen] in a tough spot with two runners in scoring position and nobody out.”

John Schreiber came on in relief and hit Randy Arozarena to load the bases. After a fielder’s choice saved a run at the plate, Brandon Lowe delivered the game’s biggest hit, a bases-clearing pinch-hit triple to the right-field corner. Jose Siri followed with an RBI single to make it a 4-1 game -- the largest deficit the Royals had faced in 88 innings.

“Those are always tough decisions,” Royals manager Matt Quatraro said of bringing Wacha back for the seventh inning. “I mean, you’re never going to know until you do it. Some of them work. Some of them don’t. That one stings because it didn’t.”

Another critical decision that had a large impact occurred in the eighth inning. Bobby Witt Jr. reached on a one-out single, and Vinnie Pasquantino was hit by a pitch, but when Salvador Perez singled to left to seemingly load the bases, Witt was sent home and thrown out at the plate for the second out of the inning.

Nelson Velázquez followed with a lineout to end the threat as quickly as it had started.

“They say I’m one of the fastest guys in the league,’’ Witt said. “So anytime we can take a shot, do it.’’

Quatraro added: “Coaching third base is one of the hardest, most lonely things to do in this game. That’s a really tough spot. It’s really hard to stop Bobby because you know how fast he is. You know that he beats [it] almost every time. They put a ball on the money.”

The Royals had one final gasp in the ninth when they loaded the bases against Rays closer Pete Fairbanks with two outs, but Witt grounded out.

Wacha, who took a no-hit bid into the sixth inning for the sixth time in his career, said he was frustrated, but viewed it as a positive weekend. The Royals (34-20) won a series at Tropicana Field for the first time since 2017.

“We’re out here trying to win a series and that’s what we did here,” said Wacha. “I’m not going to let that [defeat] dampen my spirits. It was big-time this week. We keep fighting until the last out. I love seeing that from our offense. If we keep playing like that, we’re going to win a lot of games.”

Quatraro added: “It was a really good ballgame and a really well-pitched game. Wacha threw the ball great and was super efficient. The Rays came up with the big hit when they needed it. We fought back and came up short. We won a road series against a really good team. We’ll take that.”