ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays were down to their last strike Wednesday afternoon before forcing extra innings.
However, Luis Garcia’s 427-foot, two-run home run off Nick Anderson leading off the 10th inning lifted the Nationals to a 4-2 win at Tropicana Field and a split of the two-game series.
“I just missed my spot and he got a hold of it,” said Anderson, who had not allowed a run in 14 previous appearances this season and lost for the first time as a member of the Rays. He was acquired from Miami at last season’s trade deadline.
The loss kept the Rays’ magic number for clinching a playoff berth at four, pending the outcome of Wednesday night’s action.
The Rays went 3-3 on the home stand and slipped back below .500 (6-7) in September. A lack of production with runners in scoring position has been the major reason for their recent inconsistency. After going 0-for-11 with runners in scoring position Wednesday, they are hitting .182 (33-for-181) in such situations since August 24.
“It’s multiple times that we have had opportunities come up where we’re just not able to capitalize on them,” said Rays manager Kevin Cash. “We will get going here, get on this road trip and see if we can turn some things around at the plate.”
The Rays sent the game into extra innings when Brandon Lowe launched a 2-2 slider off Washington closer Daniel Hudson into the right-field stands to knot it at 2-2. It was Lowe’s third hit of the day (3-for-4, BB) and 13th home run this season.
“I didn’t even have a thought to hit a homer right there,” said Lowe. “I was trying to get on base for Yoshi (Tsutsugo) behind me. I saw a slider and it was a good pitch. I knew it was going to be a strike and I was just trying to put a barrel on it and do something with it.”
The Rays took a 1-0 lead in the first inning when their hottest hitter, Nate Lowe, doubled home Randy Arozarena, who was hit by a pitch.
In his last five games, Lowe is 7-for-16 with three homers and eight RBIs. He walked three times Wednesday, twice intentionally.
Asdrubal Cabrera’s two-run homer off Oliver Drake with one out in the sixth gave Washington a 2-1 lead. Drake was making his first appearance since the first game of a doubleheader against the Yankees on August 8. He was reinstated from the injured list (right biceps tendonitis) on Tuesday.
The Rays had a chance to at least tie the game in the seventh. After Austin Meadows and Brandon Lowe singled with one out, Tsutsugo, pinch-hitting for Randy Arozarena, struck out. Nate Lowe then fought back from a 1-2 count to draw a walk to load the bases.
Manuel Margot, though, left them loaded as he grounded out to end the threat.
The Rays embark on their final road trip when they travel to Baltimore for five games, including a Thursday doubleheader. Originally a single game, the twinbill came about when the August 27 game between the teams at Tropicana Field was postponed to bring attention to social injustice. Following the series against the Orioles, the Rays head up to Queens for three games against the Mets.
In his last nine games Willy Adames is 2-for-32 (.062) with 20 strikeouts.
“He is going to have to fight through it,” said Cash. “He’s getting pitched pretty tough and missing some pitches he can handle. He’s a little out of sorts with his timing.”
Said Adames, who has tried glasses at home where he has struggled most: “I feel like every hitter has gone through a slump like this. I am working a lot in the cages and I will be good. I feel good mentally and the guys always have my back.”