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Friday, Sep 22, 2017
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Latest loss leaves Rays braintrust searching

ST. PETERSBURG - The door to Joe Maddon's office remained closed for more than a few minutes Saturday night after another loss brought to you by another weak offensive showing as the Tampa Bay Rays manager and executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman talked about what to do with the overworked bullpen.

You wonder if they also discussed what to do with the offense, which let another stellar night by the bullpen slip by in a 2-1 loss to the Mariners at Tropicana Field.

The Rays were 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position and left seven stranded, including the tying run at third base in the seventh. They also couldn't take advantage of a two-on, no-out start to the sixth inning.

"That's been our biggest problem this year, just the inability to win some close games based on being able to score the run when we needed to," Maddon said.

That the Rays had a chance to win the game goes to Cesar Ramos, the lefty called up before the game to provide a fresh arm to an overworked bullpen.

Ramos came on in the third inning after starter Alex Cobb left with a lower right leg contusion sustained when he took a ball struck by Ichiro Suzuki off his shin in the top of the second.

Ramos turned in a career-best outing as a reliever — a career-high four innings and a career-high six strikeouts — and started a run of seven scoreless innings by the bullpen, which has thrown 141/3 innings during the first two games of the series.

"Unbelievable," Joel Peralta said. "We needed somebody to pick us up after what happened to Cobb and he did. We're all able to pitch (today) because of what he did."

For his effort, Ramos was optioned back to Triple-A Durham. He will be replaced by another pitcher who will provide the same type of insurance if Matt Moore, today's starter, has a short outing.

"We brought Cesar up just specifically for an event like (Saturday). He was great," Maddon said. "That's as good as I ever saw him pitch."

The Rays couldn't take advantage of the hard work by Ramos, though, as the offense continued to struggle.

The Rays are batting .180 with runners in scoring position through nine games of this 10-game homestand that concludes today. They have stranded 41 runners the past four games. Beginning with the sixth inning of Friday's marathon 14-inning win, the Rays have had at least one base runner in 15 of 18 innings and have scored just four runs.

They had runners on base in seven of the nine innings Saturday. They've had their chances.

"We had some opportunities," Maddon said. "Just needed about three runs to get her done and just could not do it."

Cobb allowed a pair of two-out runs during a 36-pitch first inning with all the trouble following a two-out walk. He likely was in for a short outing despite the injury. X-rays on his leg were negative, and Cobb said he expects to make his next start.

The Rays offense finally broke through against Mariners lefty Jason Vargas in the seventh, and, like the game-winning run Friday, it came at the expense of a throwing error by Suzuki.

Desmond Jennings opened the inning with a single to left field. Jose Lobaton singled to right field. Jennings made the turn for third. Suzuki's throw was off line and bounced past Kyle Seager, the Mariners' third baseman, allowing Jennings to score and Lobaton to advance to second.

Sean Rodriguez moved Lobaton to third with a sacrifice bunt, but B.J. Upton, with the tying run at third base, swung at the first pitch and fouled out to third base. Carlos Peña struck out to end the inning.

Hideki Matsui, who served as the designated hitter because Luke Scott was placed on the disabled list earlier in the day, was 0-for-4, grounding into a double play to end one threat and hitting into a forceout to disrupt another. He has two hits this month in 20 plate appearances, has struck out seven times and has left 23 of 24 runners on base.
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