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Friday, Nov 24, 2017
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For Rays, little goes right in loss to Nationals

WASHINGTON - The news before the series finale had the eighth-inning setup man headed for a suspension and the team's home run leader likely headed to the disabled list. Surely the Tampa Bay Rays had better afternoons than the one they experienced Thursday. Then the Rays played the Washington Nationals in the wrap-up of this interesting three-game series in the nation's capital. Surely, the Rays had better nights, too. They left the bases loaded twice, fumbled around with the ball a couple of times, had to pinch-hit too early for Matt Moore and eventually lost, 5-3.
The Rays committed another error, by third baseman Drew Sutton. That was the physical error. B.J. Upton held on to the ball a little too long in the third inning, allowing the tying run to score on a sacrifice fly that was actually more of a line drive to not-too-deep center field. Also, Carlos Peña, the cutoff man on Ian Desmond's go-ahead RBI single later that inning, held on to the ball while Desmond continued to second. That didn't cost the Rays a run, but it didn't look good, either. The Rays dropped two of the first three games on this nine-game road trip that continues tonight in Philadelphia, where Tampa Bay will conclude interleague play. The Rays took a 1-0 lead in the second inning Thursday when they loaded the bases with one out. Moore struck out swinging, but Desmond Jennings kept the inning alive with an RBI single that scored Hideki Matsui. Peña worked the count full against Nats starter Gio Gonzalez before striking out swinging. The Nationals took a 2-1 lead in the third inning with a rally that began when Moore walked the first two batters — leadoff hitter Danny Espinosa and Bryce Harper. The Nats tied the score on the sacrifice fly and took the lead on the two-out single by Desmond. The Rays tied the score at 2 in the sixth inning when Ben Zobrist led off with a double and Sean Rodriguez drove him home with a single one out later. Once again, the Rays had a chance to score more runs but didn't. Sutton singled with two outs to put runners on first and second. With Moore due up, Maddon went to his bench and sent in Elliot Johnson to pinch-hit. Moore was pitching well, having allowed three hits and two runs in five innings. He walked four but struck out six. Johnson, who leads the Rays with 10 RBIs this month, looked at a called third strike. Maddon called for Joel Peralta, the right-hander whose name has been in the paper a lot this week, to start the bottom of the sixth. Peralta received an eight-game suspension earlier in the day from Major League Baseball for being caught Tuesday night with pine tar in his glove. Using a clean glove barrowed from Jeremy Hellickson, Peralta retried the first two batters he faced, then allowed a double to Jesus Flores. An intentional walk to Adam LaRoche, who was hitting for Gonzalez, put two runners on for Espinosa, who ripped his second double of the night, this one good for two runs. Undeterred, the Rays put together another threat in the seventh, loading the bases on three walks, the last two by Zobrist and Matsui with two outs. Maddon went to his bench again and sent up left-handed-hitting Will Rhymes to bat for Rodriguez as Nats manager Davey Johnson called for the right-handed Ryan Mattheus. Maddon couldn't use the left-handed-hitting Matt Joyce, who hasn't played since leaving Tuesday's game with tightness in his lower left back and could end up on the disabled list as early as today. Rhymes, with only three hits in his previous 29 at-bats, got ahead in the count 3-1 but eventually struck out swinging.

rmooney@tampatrib.com (813) 259-7227

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