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Tuesday, Sep 26, 2017
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Tampa Bay Rays

Rays' offensive woes linger in 2-1 loss

TORONTO - Elliot Johnson emerged from the trainer's room Friday night with five cuts on his face, two on his right hand and one on his right knee. He was headed for what would prove to be a painful shower and then back to the trainer's room for a concussion test.

Say this for Johnson, he certainly sacrificed his body for his team.

"Elliot did everything right," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "He's got a facial abrasion because of all that."

But, in keeping with a maddening trend during the past six weeks, the Tampa Bay Rays came up short, losing 2-1 to the Blue Jays when Johnson was thrown out at the plate for the final out.

The Rays have lost 11 of their past 12 one-run games. It was also their major league-high 11th loss when allowing two or fewer runs this season.

"It's almost impossible," Maddon said of the one-run losses. "It's just our inability to get the knock when we need it. We've talked about that, where the game owes us. Maybe the game owes us a good September worth of one-run victories."

The Blue Jays outfielders arrived at the Rogers Centre early Friday afternoon and worked on their throws to the plate before batting practice. The early work paid off when left fielder Rajai Davis threw out Matt Joyce at the plate in the second inning and right fielder Moises Sierra threw out Johnson at the plate to end the game.

Johnson, who entered in the ninth inning as a pinch-runner after Jeff Keppinger's leadoff single and advanced to second when Luke Scott flied out to left field, tried to score when pinch-hitter Carlos Peña lined a one-hopper to Sierra with two outs.

The ball took a big bounce off the spongy AstroTurf at the Rogers Centre, but Sierra, who has a strong but not very accurate arm, did a good job of gathering himself after playing the hop and made a strong throw to Jays catcher Jeff Mathis.

Johnson, one of the fastest runners on the team, lowered his right shoulder in an effort to jar the ball loose. But Mathis took a step back and toward the Jays dugout to better absorb the blow and hold on to the ball.

"I wish I could have gotten a little better shot on him, but it's his job just to get in there and get off there as best he can, so he did a good job there," Johnson said. "I just barely got any of him. He was really, really low. I usually get low, too, but I didn't connect with him."

Said Mathis: "It's easier when the ball's coming from left field, left-center, because you've got the play in front of you, you see where the guy's at and you can be able to get yourself into position a little bit better. But from right field, it's kind of blind, especially when it's bang-bang like that. So my first priority was trying to get my body in front of the plate."

It was the second time in team history the Rays lost when the tying run was thrown out at the plate to end the game. The first was May 26, 2006 when Joey Gathright was tagged out in Boston.

"That was an unbelievable throw," said Peña, who snapped an 0-for-17 slump with that hit. "It was very uncomfortable for the right fielder to make that throw. He had to jump, get that hop, then set and throw. I was very surprised when he threw him out at home plate. Just an unbelievable play."

For the struggling Rays, who lost another game to the Orioles in the wild-card standings, it was another tough way to end a close game. Johnson, though, said he was glad third-base coach Tom Foley sent him home.

"Foley's taking more chances, taking more risks because we we're not having a whole lot of opportunities," Johnson said. "I appreciate the aggressiveness. We've got to go after it right there. I think that was the best shot we got. I'm trying to do everything I can to score the run the best I can. We just came up just a little bit short, just a small step backwards. Maybe I jar it out (with a full shot)."
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