Tampa Bay Rays
Rays squander 5-run lead - twice - to Royals
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -
The Tampa Bay Rays scored eight runs Wednesday night. That's enough to win a ball game. “Win two games,” manager Joe Maddon said. But they didn't because of something that is moving away from an anomaly and turning into a trend – they couldn't hold a lead. And Wednesday it as a five run lead. The Kansas City Royals rallied for a 9-8 win on what became a miserable night at Kauffman Stadium. “We just can't keep doing this,” Maddon said. “We've given up way too many leads this year. We've actually done a lot of things well. We had another good offensive night and to have the pitching come apart is really unusual for us. Overall we have to do a lot of things better, but we just have to maintain leads.” The Rays have now held the lead in 10 of their 15 losses. “It's a little uncharacteristic of us to give up leads like this, but I think we're going to bounce back, it's going to go our way,” Jake McGee said. The last time the Rays blew a 5-0 lead and lost was May 1, 2011 – exactly two years to the day. McGee entered the game in the sixth inning and allowed the Royals to score five times, turning a 6-4 lead into a 9-6 deficit. He took the loss. Making it worse was 30 minutes after the game ended a scoring change turned an error on shortstop Yunel Escobar with two outs that inning into an infield single, which means all five runs were now earned. But, it should not have come down to that, not if the Rays pitching were able to protect a lead like in past years. Jeremy Hellickson, who left 71 tickets from his family and friends who made the drive down from Des Moines, Iowa, was staked to a 5-0 after James Loney singled home Evan Longoria in the third inning. At that point it appeared as if the Rays were headed to their third win in four games. Matt Joyce homered to right field with one out in the top of the first to extend the team's streak of consecutive games with a home run to a team-record 16, topping the old mark of 15 set in 2009. Ben Zobrist followed another homer to right give the Rays a 2-0 lead and their first back-to-back home runs of the season. Unlike Tuesday night when former Ray James Shields shut down the Rays offense after allowing two first inning runs on Joyce's two-run homer, the Rays added to their lead. An RBI double by Kelly Johnson and a sacrifice fly to center field by Desmond Jennings extended the lead to 4-0 in the second inning. But Hellickson let the Royals back into the game by allowing four runs to score from innings three to five. “The defense and offense came to play and I didn't,” he said. “It's a simple as that.” The Royals scored a run in the third inning when former Ray Elliot Johnson homered. But Luke Scott made it a five-run lead again with a homer to open the fourth inning. It was his first homer of the season. He became the 13th different Ray to homer since they began their record-setting power surge. Scott also hit the Rays 29th home run during the streak, the most in the majors during that time frame. Hellickson said he was leaving his fastball over the plate when trying to pitch inside to right-handers. He got away with early, but he said his failure to make an adjustment caught up to him. Hellickson was finished after five innings, but he was in line for his second win of the year had McGee and the bullpen been able to stop the Royals offense. He did not. It was the sixth inning when everything fell apart for the Alex Cobb in Tuesday's 8-2 loss to the Royals. The Royals took it a step farther Wednesday, scoring five times to take a 9-6 lead. Hellickson was gone by the start of the inning. He could only go five, during which he allowed four runs on a season-high nine hits. Jake McGee came in and the Royals immediately went to work. Salvador Perez singled. Johnson, asked to move him with a bunt, bunted the first pitch foul then almost bunted into a double play when Loney caught his bunt on the fly and tried to double Perez off first. Gordon singled. Alcides Escobar singled, and the Royals had the bases loaded. Butler lined a ball back to the box, and McGee nearly caught it. Had he held on to the ball McGee had a chance to double a runner of base. As it was, he dropped the ball, picked it up and threw to first to get Bulter while Jose Lobaton called for McGee to throw the ball home for what could have been a force play. Maddon thought McGee still had time to get the out at the plate. “Yeah there was. He just didn't process it at that moment, I think,” Maddon said. “There definitely was a play at the plate.” McGee said the play happened so fast, that after he dropped the ball he wanted to make sure he got one out. “Kind of first reaction was just get the ball and go to first, because I wasn't sure if the guy on third was going on contact or waiting,” McGee said. He reasoned that he was still had a one-run lead and needed one more out to get out of the inning. But McGee never got that. Eric Hosmer followed with a grounder to short for what would have been the third out, but Escobar booted the play, allowing the tying run to score. At first it was ruled and error. “I don't know where he had a play?” said Maddon, who thought it should have ruled a hit from the get-go. Cain then dropped a soft single in front of Johnson in left field. McGee left after allowing a walk to Moustakes that reload the bases. Kyle Farnsworth came in an allowed a two-run single up the middle to Perez to make it 9-6, Royals. Maddon said there wasn't much the Rays could have done on those last two hits. Both were not hit hard. “They had good baseball luck and we did not,” Maddon said. But they held a five-run lead. Twice. “It's very frustrating,” Hellickson said. “Score eight runs we should win a ball game and I blew two five-run leads there, it's just unacceptable.”
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