Rodney can't close deal; Rays lose to Sox 4-3
ST. PETERSBURG -
As best as Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon could tell, closer Fernando Rodney was finally beginning to find his groove again. After weeks of struggling, the snap appeared to be back in Rodney's fastball this week, and the pull seemed to be back in his change-up.
Then came Thursday night.
Unable to consistently find the plate with any of his pitches, Rodney walked the bases loaded in the ninth and then gave up a three-run double to Will Middlebrooks on a 1-2 pitch that gave the Red Sox a 4-3 come-from-behind victory in front of 16,055 at Tropicana Field.
The loss was the second straight for the Rays, who won their previous six and finished their 10-game homestand with a 6-4 mark.
For Rodney, the blown save was his third of the season, matching the number of save opportunities he blew all of last year. But that might not have been the worst of it for Rodney.
After issuing a walk following Middlebrooks' double, Rodney left Thursday's game having allowed four walks for the first time ever as Ray. He now has issued 15 walks in 151/3 innings this year. A year ago he walked 15 in 742/3 innings.
Rodney was attempting to close out the game for Alex Cobb, who bounced back from his shortest outing of the season last Friday and struck out six during a 61/3-inning stint.
The Rays, who went into Thursday's game having scored a major league-best 143 runs in their past 26 games, wasted an opportunity to improve on that mark during their first at-bat in this one.
After a one-out single by Luke Scott and walks to Ben Zobrist and Yunel Escobar with two outs, hot-hitting James Loney allowed the opportunity to pass by watching strike three.
It was the start of a long night for Loney, who went into the evening leading major-league hitters with a .370 batting average but left three runners in scoring position in his first two at-bats.
The way the Rays have been hitting, though, it didn't figure to be long before someone would pick Loney up, and that someone proved to be Ryan Roberts, who hit a two-out solo home run in the second.
The Red Sox didn't bounce back immediately, going hitless through the first 31/3 innings against Cobb, but they did bounce back, tying the game on a single by David Ortiz in the fourth inning.
Ortiz's single drove in Shane Victorino, who doubled to become the first Red Sox hitter to reach base against Cobb, who was coming off a record-breaking performance his last time out.
Cobb became the first pitcher in major-league history to strike out 13 batters in less than five innings Friday when he punched out a baker's dozen in 42/3 innings against the Padres.
Cobb continued racking up good numbers against the Red Sox, striking out four of the first six batters he faced and six through the first five innings.
But Felix Doubront was just as good, if not better. Though he walked six batters, he struck out seven to avoid further damage.
Doubront's wild ways (50 of his 104 pitches were balls) eventually caught up to him in the sixth, though, when a leadoff walk to Loney, the last batter he faced, sparked a scoring opportunity the Rays cashed in on.
Though Loney was erased when Matt Joyce check-swung his way into a fielder's choice, Clayton Mortensen came on and issued back-to-back walks to Jose Lobaton and Roberts to load the bases again, this time for Desmond Jennings.
Against a pulled-in infield, Jennings lined a soft, broken-bat single just beyond the reach of shortstop Stephen Drew to bring in Joyce and give the Rays a 1-0 lead.
That single also drove Mortensen from the game, but Andrew Miller only fared a little better than Mortensen, allowing an RBI single to Scott before getting the final two outs of the inning.