Rays lose again, now face a 7th game in ACLS

by Gary Shelton on October 17, 2020

in general

Snell walked four in four innings./STEVEN MUNCIE

Saturday, 4 a.m.

How do they recover from this? Do they recover from this?

How do the Rays calm the storm that is happening around them? How do they stop the fall? Biggest question: How do they stop the increasing momentum of the Houston Astros?

The Tampa Bay Rays, a very good team only 15 minutes ago, are nearing a collapse of historic proportions. They seem helpless, like a boxer who is bruised and bleeding and hanging onto the ropes. They have seen their strengths turn into weaknesses.

The Rays lost for the third straight game Friday night, watching the rejuvenated Houston Astros run away with a 7-4 victory. Now, they will try to avoid being just the second team in baseball history to blow a 3-0 series lead.

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Along the way, all of their answers have turned into questions.

-- Remember when their starting pitching was something to fear? This series, it has been good but short of overpowering. You could argue that the Astros have had the better starter throughout. Blake Snell lasted only four innings -- and gave up two earned runs -- on Friday. Along the way, he gave up four walks.

-- Remember when the bullpen was overpowering? For most of the season, it has been the Rays' hidden strength, a shut-it-down collection of relief pitchers. But Diego Castillo - who had been excellent -- was ripped up Friday, giving up three hits and two runs in the fifth inning as he got only three outs in his stint.

-- Remember when the Rays could beat you to death with singles all over the park? The Rays' bats continued to be toothpicks on Friday, managing only six hits in their loss. Two of those came in the second inning, when the Rays scored their first run. The Rays have hit .198 with 70 strikeouts through six games. Friday night, they had only three hits in six innings against Framber Valdez. Manuel Margot added two homers after the Astros led 7-1, but really, it wasn't that close.

-- Suddenly, the relentless Rays may lose their adjective. The Astros will try to become the second team (behind the 2004 Red Sox, who beat the Yankees) to come from a 3-0 deficit. Only once this season did the Rays lose four games in a row.

-- Remember when the Rays didn't look quite so glassy eyed from the opposition? The Astros had a losing record this season, remember. But they're a force on offense, and lately, the Rays aren't catching enough of their line drives.

“We've just got to bounce back," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "This isn’t the scenario we wanted. This is a resilient group. I was encouraged the offense kinda got going. We’re going to look for some carry over. We’re going to show up tomorrow and do everything we can like we always  do to win and pick each other up. There’s no doubt the momentum has shifted,. but I would bet on this team being capable of bouncing back."

But will they? The Rays seemed frayed in this game? Snell was angry when pulled from the game (he had allowed runners on first and second with no one out). Mike Zunino broke a bat after a strikeout. Yandy Diaz got into a jawing match with Valdez after he reached base on a walk.

So where is this team's head?

“They’re frustrated," Cash said. "We’re all frustrated, but I don’t think they’re tensing up. They recognize that  that we’ve got an opportunity for the fourth time to do something special, and have confidence we can find a way to compete and get the bats going and score some runs for Charlie (Morton) and find a way to win.”

Said Zunino: "“I think we take it as a one-game series now. If we were in their boat, would it be any different? We’re 3-3 right now. Somebody’s got to win tomorrow."

Can it be the Rays, who are averaging a shade over six hits a game? Remember, in the first meeting between the teams, Astros starter Lance McCullers (from Tampa), struck out 11 and allowed one earned run through seven innings.

Usually, he is a company guy, but Snell admitted he was frustrated to be taken out after only four-plus innings. He had a 1-0 lead, but he had walked four, and Cash wanted to get to Castillo, who had been hot.

“I was confused for sure," Snell said. "That’s what he thought the best decision was. For me, it’s confusing, frustrating. I want to be out there. I want to be that guy to take the team deep into the ballgame.

“I felt the way I was going, I was going to get through that inning. That's what was going to be best for us. That's in mi=y mind, but Cash is usually ... he's always right. It's just something that's very frustrating."

Snell, however, said that he thought the Rays were in good shape as far as today's game with Morton on the mound.

“Honestly, I feel good," Snell said. "I know we’ve lost three straight, but we have Charlie going tomorrow. That's positive. Our bullpen is rested. I feel we’re going to swing it tomorrow. I’m excited to see what tomorrow’s game will be. I like our chances. I’m very excited for tomorrow's game."

Was it the right move? Well, it didn't work, and decisions that don't work are always wrong. But you can understand what Cash was thinking. Walks have gotten Snell in trouble all season, and he had just given up a walk and a single with no one out. Castillo had been sharp, and the plan was for him, Pete Fairbanks and Nick Anderson to take over the game and try to make a 1-0 lead stand up.

It didn't work. Of Castillo's first five batters, he gave. up a sacrifice, two singles, a walk and a double. In a hurry, it was 4-1.

The game begins at 8 pm. at San Diego's Petco Park.

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