Tampa Bay Rays
Rays' Maddon calls out faltering Hellickson
ST. PETERSBURG -
Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon was not happy to see starting pitcher Jeremy Hellickson let another big lead slip away.
The normally always-look-on-the-bright-side-of-things manager turned sour after the Rays had to rally for an 8-7 win against the San Diego Padres on Evan Longoria's two-run, walk-off homer in the bottom of the ninth inning.
Longoria's team-record fifth walk-off saved a game which the Rays led 6-2 in the seventh inning.
"I'm not happy with that," Maddon said. "I'm not happy with that. I'm going to tell you, I'm not happy with that. Nooooo, I'm not happy with that. That's inappropriate. That's got to stop. We're better than that.
"We want to play in October, we got to be better than that. That cannot happen. You're not going to be lucky, you got to be good."
After allowing a two-out, two-run homer in the first inning Hellickson retired 16 straight Padres. The Rays handed him the four-run lead with a six-run second inning, and Hellickson was on cruise control heading into the seventh.
But he walked Carlos Quentin to start the inning. Then he allowed a one-out single. Then a two-out single. Bases loaded.
Padres manager Bud Black sent Jesus Guzman up to pinch-hit for No. 9 hitter John Baker. Guzman worked the count full then lifted a grand slam down the left-field line.
What was once a 6-2 lead was gone with one swing.
"A walk's a walk," Maddon said. "(Against) Guzman, (Hellickson) should have been able to do something right there. I felt very strongly about that. Not lukewarm, not mediocre, not tepid, but very strongly about it. ... I felt really good about that moment, and that's the moment he's got to get done right there."
Hellickson was also given a 5-0 lead against the Royals in Kansas City, but allowed four runs between the third and fifth innings, which started the Royals on their way to a 9-8 victory.
He couldn't close the door on the Toronto Blue Jays on the first night of this homestand even though he was staked to a 7-0 lead.
"I just got to a better job when they give me a lead like that," Hellickson said.
Hellickson has held a lead in each of his last five starts, but has only won one of them.
Maddon's frustration with Hellickson's inability to pitch well with the lead nearly came to a boil Saturday night.
It's not often Maddon admits on the record he's not happy with one of his players, especially so soon after the offending moment.
The Rays were able to win because Ben Zobrist drew a two-out walk in the ninth inning and Longoria homered. Zobrist nearly was out on a tipped third strike, but the ball popped out of the mitt of Padres catcher Nick Hundley.
Because of that the Rays were able to sidestep what could have been their most frustrating loss of the season.
"We've had those already this year," Maddon said. "It would have been among the top three worst losses of the year. But right there, to be able to come back is outstanding, it's wonderful. It's part of the game, but I'd rather be good than lucky. That's not going to happen very often. That is the anomaly what happened right there.
"We're fortunate Longo was in the right spot. We're fortunate that 'Zo gets it as a hitter, and then you have all this talent that comes together in that particular moment. But you can't go to the (postseason) playing like that. You get leads, you got to put the other team away. That is inappropriate. That's got to stop."