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Friday, Nov 24, 2017
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Martin Fennelly Columns

Fennelly: Turn out the Trop, the Rays are over

ST. PETERSBURG - They're done. Over and out. Remember when this was going to be a fun week? Remember when the Red Sox were going to be at Tropicana Field, watching the Rays chase down another playoff spot, while Bobby Valentine, Joe Maddon's official timekeeper, and his miserable team played out the last-place string amid misery and dysfunction? Instead, in a practically empty Trop (even by practically empty Trop standards), the Rays are playing that string right along with the Sox. They're in a flat spin and there's no way out. Tuesday, they lost again to Boston, 7-5, blowing a 3-0 lead for bad measure. That's seven losses in eight games. The team that never says die has died.
How pathetic is it when you look more pathetic than Bobby V's bunch, which gave up its ghost a long time ago? There will be time for an autopsy. There should be pointed questions about where this franchise is going. We've gone from what should have been a wild finish to a wildly disappointing season. Oh, it's nothing mathematical yet, but what about the Rays adds up to any picture postcard but one of a great big rump with a fork in it? They've rolled over. In the space of eight days, they went from a stretch-tested contender to something the American League can put out with the recycling. Last week _ that was their shot. Monday, Boston began this series by beating a team that was reeling, ready to drop, still in shock from Baltimore and New York, where they wet the sheets five of six days, at precisely the wrong time, an extinction-level road trip. Why, Monday the Rays even managed some dysfunction of their own, that dugout dust-up between pitcher Alex Cobb and his catcher, Jose Molina. I bet lurid Red Sox fans had to bite their lips a little. Who's coming apart now? It wasn't supposed to go like this. How does this team, with this pitching, with an expanded playoff format, wind up on the outside looking in? It's inexcusable, it's indefensible. Tuesday, when the Rays hit the clubhouse, TV screens were showing the Rays' 9-0 victory over Texas in Game 1 of last year's ALDS. It was Maddon's idea, sunny side up, always. Two Rays looked at the TVs, then at each other and laughed, as if to say, " Yeah, that'll get us going ." There was last Thursday: How do you get out of no one out, bases loaded, a 3-0 count in extra innings _ and still lose that game? How? "That game hurt," said Rays shortstop Ben Zobrist. That game did it, if you ask me. Zobrist, for his part, did not go gently, as he had two hits Tuesday (the Rays only two hits, mind you) and four RBIs in fighting the good fight. Not everyone was so inclined. Nine innings, three Rays hits. Where have we heard that one before? Throw in poor Sean Rodriguez, who made two more errors for a virtually impossible four in two nights, signature art for 2012, when the bottom fell out of Rays fielding. They're done. Over and out. Yes, there was hope for a sudden burst, to at least get within three games of Baltimore as the Orioles hit the Trop for the final three games of the season. Forget it. The Orioles, not the Rays, might have cornered the market on fairy dust this season. Of course, this wouldn't have been an issue if the Rays had even begun to take care of business last week _ or had hit at all this season. They wasted this pitching. They wasted this season. Before Tuesday's game, Maddon refused to count out the lads. "I've seen a lot of prize fights where the guy gets smoked a little bit in about the fifth round, his knees buckle, but he's still standing in the 10th round and something good happens," he said. Start the count. Finish it, too. They're done. Over and out.
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