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Wednesday, Oct 18, 2017
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Punchless Rays lose 2-1 to Red Sox in 10th

BOSTON Where to start?

With all the runners left in scoring position? With the refusal to call for a bunt during situations that suggested a bunt might be in order?

With a good day of pitching gone sour because of the many opportunities wasted by the Tampa Bay Rays offense Saturday afternoon in a 2-1, 10-inning loss to the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park?

The Rays were 0-for-11 with runners in scoring position.

“That's the true issue there,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said.

But rather than try to help nudge things along by having his hitters move things along with a bunt, Maddon let them swing away. The results weren't pretty.

“I think the bunt is an overrated play,” Maddon said. “I would bunt in a circumstance where you feel like the guys on deck or in the hole are the guys you're looking for against that particular pitcher.”

Two situations arose in the Rays' final two at-bats that might have benefited by a little small ball.

They had runners on first and second and no outs in the ninth inning after walks to Evan Longoria and Ben Zobrist. Pinch-hitter James Loney swung away and looked at strike three. The next two batters flied out.

“Loney was the best shot there,” Maddon said. “Loney has the ability to get a base hit there and drive in a run. The guys hitting afterwards are not really tearing the ball up right now, so it's the outcome-biased situation where if James had gotten the base hit, it was the right move.”

In the 10th, Jose Molina legged out a leadoff double and was replaced by pinch-runner Kelly Johnson. Matt Joyce swung away and flied out to left field. The next two batters popped up and grounded out.

Maddon said you can't assume a bunt would be successful. Besides, the Rays already had runners in scoring position in both cases.

The Red Sox won the game in the bottom of the 10th when Jacoby Ellsbury singled up the middle with one out, stole second and moved to third when Jose Lobaton's throw tailed away and then off the glove of Yunel Escobar and into center field. Ellsbury scored on an infield hit by Shane Victorino against a five-man infield.

A run in the ninth and the Rays like their chances with Fernando Rodney to close out the game. A run in the 10th and the infield is back with Ellsbury at third base and who knows what happens during the Victorino at-bat.

“If we want to compete in this division and this season in general,” Longoria said, “we're going to have to find a way to push across more than one run.”

Longoria said it's easy to second-guess Maddon, but added, “If you're not up there swinging the bat hot, hitting the ball out of the ballpark or driving the ball in the gap and producing runs that way, then it might be time to start thinking about doing the little things that we've done to be successful — just moving the guy, trying to make a conscious effort to hit the ball the other way or lay down a bunt.”

Maddon said he didn't think he would lose any sleep Saturday night over his refusal to bunt.

“No. I think about that stuff way in advance,” he said. “For that group out there that wants people to bunt all the time, you don't know the outcome when you choose to do that. It's outcome-biased. You assume that because you (bunted) the run is going to score somehow. So many times you do that and the run does not score and then you're upset that you didn't give the first guy a chance.”

Maddon gave his team chances. They're now 0 for their last 17 with runners in scoring position.
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