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Thursday, May 24, 2018
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Rays offense fails to get clutch hits

ST. PETERSBURG — The Tampa Bay Rays were in need of a hero again late Tuesday night. Unlike Monday, a hero never showed.

One night after superhero Jose Lobaton extended the American League Division Series to four games, no one was able to push it to five.

When they needed them most, their season on the brink, the Rays’ bats went deadly silent. It’s been that way all year against these Red Sox.

The Rays hit just .207 against them during the regular season. On Tuesday, during their series- and season-ending 3-1 loss, it was more of the same.

The Rays rapped out six hits, all but one of them singles. Two of those singles, including rookie Wil Myers’ only hit of the postseason, were of the infield variety.

Yunel Escobar, who had three of the Rays’ hits, had the other infield single. It came in the eighth, the Rays down by a run. After that, all they needed was a hero. But a hero never arrived.

Maybe one would have had he been given a chance.

After getting his third walk-off hit and second walk-off home run of the year Monday, the Rays’ hero in residence, Lobaton, was removed for pinch-hitter Sean Rodriguez during that pivotal eighth inning.

Rodriguez never got a chance to be a hero, either. After the Red Sox made a pitching change — right-hander Junichi Tazawa for lefty Craig Breslow — Matt Joyce took the at-bat. And struck out.

“The big hits just weren’t there,’’ said Joyce, who was hitless in eight at-bats this postseason. “It’s frustrating. Guys like me are expected to come up big in those situations, and it just didn’t happen.’’

It happened once Tuesday. After Escobar hit his leadoff double in the sixth, David DeJesus ripped a one-out line-drive single to right to give the Rays a 1-0 lead. The Red Sox erased that lead one inning later.

“Yeah, when we were able to put up the big hit and come up with a run like we did there in the sixth, they came right back and put up two on us, and that really hurts,’’ DeJesus said. “If you can get a zero there, it changes the game.’’

The Rays had lots of zeros Tuesday. James Loney, Evan Longoria, Ben Zobrist, Desmond Jennings and Kelly Johnson, their 3 through 7 batters, were a combined 0-for-16. Even at that, they only left two runners on base.

“They did a good job of staying away from our strengths so that we couldn’t get that big hit when we needed it,’’ Zobrist said. “They kept the ball on the corners and overall just put the ball where they needed to.’’

That has happened a lot to the Rays in these deciding ALDS games. They’ve played in three of them the past four years. Their batting totals in those games: 19 hits (15 singles), five runs, 33 strikeouts.

“When you get to the postseason, you’re obviously facing teams with the best pitching, and it’s tough to score a lot of runs against them,’’ Joyce said. “It’s frustrating, but it’s more fuel for the fire to work hard this offseason and try to come up big the next time.’’


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