Rays can’t hold late lead as bullpen wobbles

by Gary Shelton on September 6, 2021

in general

Fairbanks gave up the tying run in the seventh./JEFFREY S. KING

Monday, 4 a.m.

This time, no one turned out the lights. This time, no one slammed the door.

The bullpen of the Tampa Bay Rays, so good all season, let a game slip away Sunday -- and a chance to widen the lead in the AL East along with it.

Mainstays Andrew Kittredge and Pete Fairbanks, two of the most trusted arms in the bullpen, both gave up runs in the late stages of Sunday's game, and the Minnesota Twins rallied to take a 6-5 victory.

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With both New York and Boston losing, the Rays lost the chance to increase their edge in the division.

The Rays' bullpen came into the game with a 3.06 ERA, first in the majors. It has 50 wins on the season and has 13 relievers with a save.

Understand then, how strange it was to see Fairbanks struggle and give up the tying run in the seventh, and then to see Kittredge give up the losing run in the ninth.

"I just lost control of the zone for a second there," Kittredge said. "I fell behind (Josh) Donaldson."

Donaldson doubled to lead off the ninth. He came home on a single up the middle by Nick Gordon.

"I know we have the pull shift on and I was trying to get him to hit into it," Kittredge said. "I left that one over the plate."

It mimicked Fairbanks' struggles in the seventh. Fairbanks started the inning by giving up a single and a walk, then gave up the run-scoring single to Gordon, who had a big day.

The Rays had come back from a 4-0 deficit to take the lead after starter Luis Patino struggled.

"He just didn’t have it today," Rays' manager Kevin Cash said. "Kyle (Snyder ,the pitching coach) and I kept looking at each other. It seemed like he could never get in a rhythm, in a groove, and the Twins did a good job of finding holes and getting big hits."

The Rays did have some stars hitting the ball. Brandon Lowe hit a two-run homer for his 33rd of the season, and Austin Meadows hit another to drive in his 96th run of the year.

Rookie Wander Franco extended his on-base streak to 35 games, one behind American League leader Mickey Mantle and eight behind major-lead leader Frank Robinson.

The Rays, however, stranded seven runners.

The Rays start a nine-game road trip in Boston today with a 1:10 game at Fenway Park. The Rays will likely start Ryan Yarbrough against Boston's Chris Sale.

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