Celebration postponed: Rays shut out, fail to clinch

So naturally, down a run, the Rays would score on their next opportunity… right? Unfortunately, no. They actually loaded the bases in the home half of the fifth. No payoff. Kelly Shoppach dribbled an infield single down the third baseline to get the leadoff man on base. Carlos Pena walked to give the Rays two men aboard. Back-to-back strikeouts by Sean Rodriguez and Dan Johnson kind of put a damper on the effort but B.J. Upton clanked a base hit off the bag at third to load the bases. And after I sang his praises earlier, Bartlett grounded into a fielder’s choice and Pena was tagged out on his way to third.

Here’s the point where bad officiating entered the game and changed the outcome entirely made me cranky. I do my best to avoid the crybaby routine, pissing and moaning about umpires, referees etc. but I also refuse to ignore empirical evidence. Felix Pie led off the seventh with a base hit and then Cesar Izturis was awarded first base, ruled hit-by-pitch. The problem is he was in a 1-2 count and offered a bunt. Hit or not, that’s what we like to call a strikeout, for those who don’t know, which unfortunately includes home plate umpire Mike Everitt, apparently.

Roberts’ lined out to center holding both runners. Randy Choate came on to relieve Davis and gave up a base hit to Markakis. Ben Zobrist made a great play on the ball and threw Pie out at home, dead to rights. Except Shoppach must have forgotten you need to catch the ball before tagging the runner. His error allowed a run to score and Markakis to move to second. On came Chad Qualls to allow a sac fly to Ty Wigginton. Upton smartly made the play at third, trying to get Markakis after tagging and advancing... and over-sliding, actually; he came completely off the bag but Dan Johnson, at third for the still-injured and sorely-missed Evan Longoria, couldn’t manage to tag him out. The folly continued. Ever-pesky Luke Scott singled, scoring Markakis and giving Baltimore a four-run lead, seemingly insurmountable with the offense the Rays had brought with them Monday night.

[image-1]Well "seemingly insurmountable" turns into plain ol' insurmountable when you can't manage a single run and that's exactly the situation Tampa Bay players and fans found themselves in. The effort, or lack thereof, was punctuated by having all three men struck out in the final inning. With the loss, Davis fell to 12-10 on the year, charged with three runs on seven hits. He walked one and struck out two. Not a bad game, really, just not a great one. You're going to lose when you allow only one run if you have no offensive support (you like that touch of obvious, don't ya?).

The Rays did not manage to decide their own destiny, stuck with a magic number of 1 to reach the playoffs. At the moment, Boston is beating Chicago 5-1 in the ninth and the Yankees have just lost to the Blue Jays 5-7, the lone bit of good news; that reduces the Rays' A.L. East magic number to 5... I think.

Here's the deal, boys and girls. That champagne will taste a lot sweeter if you clinch by winning instead of backing into the playoffs. And I'll be ever much kinder in my write-ups of the next two games if you can manage a win in either, but preferably both. It'll be nice to see back-to-back wins, especially for whatever-sized crowd shows up for Wednesday's final home game of the season. I'm closing out the year with you, so cut a guy a break, eh? Please?

Hey, your mom(s) called, you left your bat(s) at home! Here’s some new magic numbers for you, Rays fans: 0, 3. Those are the stats for runs scored and hits, respectively, for the Tampa Bay Rays in Monday night’s shutout embarrassment at the hands of the Baltimore Orioles.

Another game with nothing doing until the fifth inning… Well, which is not to imply lack of opportunity, but lack of execution. The Rays had the chance to start the scoring in the bottom of the first frame. Jason Bartlett, hitting .406 in his last 10 games, got a hold of a one-out single and cruised to second base on a fielding error by Baltimore RF Nick Markakis. JB advanced to third base on Carl Crawford’s groundout and Willy Aybar took a free bag when hit by a pitch. Ben Zobrist struck out to end the early opportunity.

Rays starter Wade Davis threw a solid outing, allowing scattered hits through the first four frames. He yielded a one-out double to Cesar Izturis in the fifth and responded by striking out Brian Roberts with three impressive, mid-90s fastballs. And then there was that RBI-triple to Markakis… Yeah, about that… Shite.

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