Tampa Bay Rays
Rays bullpen blows chance in Toronto
The way manager Joe Maddon looks at it, someone in the Tampa Bay bullpen not named Joel Peralta is going to have to get a big out or two, or even three, if the Rays are going to win enough games this season to achieve their lofty goals.
With the score tied in the seventh inning Monday against the Toronto Blue Jays, Maddon turned to Josh Lueke, a young right-hander who has been solid in his limited appearances since joining the team this month.
And Lueke later said he was glad for the opportunity.
But the opportunity was wasted when Lueke walked three batters ahead of a bases-clearing double by Edwin Encarnacion that turned the game in favor of the Blue Jays.
Yes, there was the obligatory ninth-inning rally, but it fell short as the Jays held on for a 7-5 victory in front of a Victoria Day crowd of 29,885 at Rogers Centre.
“Overall, just didn't have anything,” Lueke said. “Just bad.”
The game featured the Rays debut of pitcher Jake Odorizzi and included the first Yunel Escobar moment that will require a chat between the Rays shortstop and Maddon.
Escobar, who played in Toronto from 2010-12, was booed all afternoon. His two-run homer in the ninth inning cut the Jays lead to 7-5 and came in the middle of a rally that saw the Rays put the tying run on base with Ben Zobrist at the plate.
Escobar gave the safe sign as he stepped on home plate, which brought more boos from the holiday matinee crowd.
But that's as close as the Rays would get to extending their winning streak to four games. Jays closer Casey Janssen struck out Zobrist to end the game.
Three walks from Lueke and another walk from Kyle Farnsworth in the eighth inning told the story. All four batters scored.
“I still think (Lueke is) very good, just a bad day for him,” Maddon said. “It really comes down to that moment, because otherwise I thought we had a pretty nice day.”
It didn't start out as a nice day for the Rays.
Odorizzi, added to the roster Monday to replace the injured David Price in the rotation, allowed two runs on three hits during a 29-pitch first inning. He allowed another run in the second inning on a pair of doubles.
The Rays tied it at 3 in the third inning on a two-run double by Evan Longoria. Longoria had already extended his hit streak to a career-high 14 games with a second-inning single.
Odorizzi settled down after that, retiring 10 of the final 11 batters he faced.
“Later on in the game, the stuff was a lot better,” Odorizzi said. “Early on, just trying to get a feel for things. The first inning was the toughest, and after the first I thought it went pretty well.”
Jake McGee pitched a perfect sixth, and Maddon turned the game over to Lueke in the seventh.
Lueke allowed only one hit in his first 32/3 innings for the Rays this season after allowing runs in just two of his 14 appearances at Triple-A Durham.
But Lueke walked Emilio Bonifacio to start the inning. After a sacrifice bunt, he walked No. 9 hitter Munenori Kawasaki. He got Melky Cabrera to line out to left field but walked Jose Bautista to load the bases.
Maddon had Farnsworth and not Peralta warming in the bullpen as the Jays lineup turned back to the top, but he chose to stay with Lueke.
“There's two things: you can't kill Joel Peralta. This is not kill-Joel-Peralta-Year. And other guys got to get it done,” Maddon said. “For us to be really successful, other guys in the bullpen have to do what they're supposed to do.”
Maddon said he was hoping it would turn into a growth moment for Lueke.
Lueke was hoping to reward his manager's confidence with a shutdown inning.
Encarnacion made it 6-3 Jays with his double.
“I felt like I pitched pretty good so far (this season), and he gave me the respect to put me out there in a close game, a tough situation,” Lueke said. “Basically, I didn't show up with my A game and bring my best stuff to go out there to compete.”
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