Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon said before Saturday's game that he was looking for the afternoon to play out according to the team's formula for winning: a good start by Matt Moore, some runs from the offense, a shutdown job from the bullpen. Moore did his job. The offense strung together enough hits in the seventh inning to build a two-run lead. And then, well, the game settled into what has recently become a disturbing formula.
Closer Fernando Rodney brought the Rays to within one strike of another victory before letting another ninth-inning lead slip away. Rodney's blown save allowed the New York Yankees to rally for a 4-3, 11-inning victory in front of a Tropicana Field crowd of 25,874 when Lyle Overbay homered with two outs in the 11th off Josh Lueke. “This has been like really awkward to watch,” Maddon said. “(Rodney has) been within one pitch of almost being perfect this season.” Rodney's fifth blown save began with a two-out walk to Overbay on a full count and concluded with a two-strike RBI single by Brett Gardner. It was the third time this season Rodney was within one strike of converting the save before blowing the lead. “I'm sure it's bothering him,” Maddon said. “You'll have to ask him.” That was tough to do, because Rodney dressed and left the clubhouse without talking to the media. Normally a standup guy after blowing a save, Rodney apparently decided he couldn't answer the same questions he answered last Wednesday in Toronto and twice on the Rays' previous homestand. “It's frustrating. It's heartbreaking, frustrating, the same stuff,” Matt Joyce said. “There's not much you can do.” Maddon, as he had after Wednesday's loss, continued to throw support to Rodney, who converted 48 out of 50 chances during his career year in 2012. “I've not lost any patience with him, honestly I have not,” Maddon said. “We have to have this work a certain way for us to be successful all year. You just can't look at a mini version of the season and draw all these kinds of conclusions. We're set up to win in a certain way, and you have to continue to utilize people in their appropriate moments and roles. As long as he does not lose confidence in himself I will not lose confidence in him.” Moore, looking to become the major leagues' first nine-game winner, allowed one run in six innings. That run came in the first inning. After that, Moore, Jake McGee and Joel Peralta kept the Yankees patchwork offense off the board for seven innings. The Rays made it a 1-1 game in the fifth inning on a pair of doubles by Jose Molina and Desmond Jennings off Yankees starter Vidal Nuno. The Rays went ahead with two runs in the seventh inning. Joyce's pinch-hit double followed a leadoff single by James Loney. Loney scored on a pinch-hit single from Kelly Johnson, and Joyce scored on Yunel Escobar's grounder to second base. It was 3-1 in the ninth when Rodney entered. He retired the first two batters he faced before walking Overbay. Overbay broke for second and would have made it on catcher's indifference, but third base umpire John Hirschbeck called a balk because Rodney did not come to a complete stop before throwing to the plate. That call seemed to upset Rodney. He allowed an opposite-field double to left to pinch-hitter Brennan Boesch that scored Overbay. Rodney then got ahead of Gardner 1-2 before Gardner singled softly to center, scoring Boesch. “Two outs, nobody on, you got a walk, a check-swing and a blooper and everybody's sad right now,” Maddon said. “It's really unbelievable.” The Rays loaded the bases with one out in the 10th inning, but Loney struck out and Joyce grounded out to second to send the game to the 11th. The Rays were 2-for-15 with runners in scoring position and left 10 men on base. “It's not time to upset the spread,” Maddon said. “Guys are playing hard. We've played well enough to win twice (Saturday night) and were one pitch away from doing it. From a pitching perspective we were one pitch away from doing. We were one pitch away from doing it on an offensive perspective and failed on both situations.” email@example.com (813) 259-7227 Twitter: @RMooneyTBO