Unearned Loss as Late Error Costs Rays

Chicago defeated the Rays 2-1 in a game where pitching shined, hitting struggled

It was another pitcher’s duel at Tropicana Field on Saturday evening as the Tampa Bay Rays lost another one run game, falling 2-1 to the Chicago White Sox and spoiling a solid combined nine innings between starter Blake Snell and reliever Yonny Chirinos.

In a tie game entering the ninth, after Tim Anderson led off the frame with a double, Leury Garcia was asked to bunt the runner over.  The first two tries were ugly foul bunts, but the third attempt was rolled between third base and the pitcher’s mound.  In trying to field it, Matt Duffy missed the throw to first and allowed Anderson to score on the overthrow.  This gave the White Sox their first lead of the night, 2-1 on an unearned run.  It was just enough to hold on.

Rays’ ace Blake Snell got the start on Saturday evening, his first appearance since the All Star Game and his first appearance for Tampa Bay since July 12.  It was a welcome sight for Tampa Bay in more ways than one.  Snell not only had been an All Star caliber pitcher for the Rays in the first half whose home numbers are the best in the game, but with the Rays lacking starting pitchers it will be a welcome change for Tampa Bay to have their reliable #1 back.

“He looked good,” said manager Kevin Cash.  “The strike throwing wasn’t at his sharpest, but that’s to be expected with him getting two weeks off.”

Snell is not all the way back to his old self, of course.  The Rays were cautious with the lefty after his absence due to throwing shoulder fatigue, keeping him on a pitch count and making sure not to exhaust a player they’re going to need both this year and beyond.

The top starter in Tampa Bay got a little bit of help from his team in the second inning.  With Matt Davidson on first, Yolmer Sanchez doubled to the left field wall.  Mallex Smith threw the ball in to Willy Adames, who opted to try cutting Davidson down at home plate.  Adames’ throw needed to be perfect and it was, allowing catcher Jesus Sucre to tag out the White Sox’ DH on the slide.

The run cut down at the plate would prove critical by the bottom of the inning.  Carlos Gomez legged out a one-out double in the second, followed by a Willy Adames single two batters later.  It was a great inning for Adames, as he saved a run with his arm and created one with his bat.

It was not a completely perfect return for Blake Snell.  In the fourth inning, Jose Abreu hit a solo home run to center field to tie the game at one.  Snell had some issues around home plate, throwing a lower percentage of strikes than usual and likely limiting his night as he was being monitored closely.  Otherwise he did seem to be on the mend, however.  In all Snell pitched four innings, surrendering just the one run alongside three strikeouts and a pair of walks.

Yonny Chirinos came in to relieve Snell, also recently returned from an injury and some time in Durham.

It was a strong outing for the South Siders’ starter, Carlos Rodon.  The 25 year old lefty is a big part of the future for the White Sox, a team loaded with prospects and emerging players alike.

One run struggles continue

Another loss in a one-run game means that the Tampa Bay Rays have dropped 25 such contests this season.  The 45 one-run games to this point are the most by an American League team through 111 games since 1993 and the Kansas City Royals.

All five games the Rays and White Sox have played this season have been decided by just one run.  The White Sox have a 3-2 lead in that season series, with all three wins featuring a go-ahead run in the eighth inning or later.

18=08 as Rays welcome back AL championship team

It was a special day on Saturday, as the Rays honored the 2008 American League Champions before the game.  Akinori Iwamura, who was depicted in a bobblehead given away over the weekend, traveled all the way from Japan to be part of the ceremony.  Iwamura is currently the player-coach for the Fukushima Hopes in Japan, but took the time to come to St. Petersburg and throw out the first pitch.  Iwamura, of course, stepped on second base to end the 2008 American League Championship Series and send the Rays to the World Series.

The ace pitcher for that 08 team, Scott Kazmir, received what was likely the loudest ovation of the ceremony.  The lefty Kazmir was a big part of the turnaround that led to the 2008 season, and one of the first star players in the Rays’ history after coming over from the Mets in a trade that included Victor Zambrano.

On deck

The 2008 celebration continues Sunday in a way, with the White Sox sending James Shields (4-13, 4.56 ERA) to the mound to face the Rays in the series finale.  Shields of course was a critical member of the Rays’ rotation during their AL pennant run, borrowing the nickname “Big Game James” from Los Angeles Lakers legend James Worthy.  Even though he will be wearing the visitor’s uniform, Shields is certain to receive a warm welcome in St. Pete.  This despite the fact that the Tampa Bay Rays are 0-4 in games where they have had to face Shields as an opponent.

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Tim Williams has been covering sports since his days as a student at Northeastern University covering events such as the Beanpot. In the thirteen years since, he has covered college hockey, the NFL, Major League Baseball, the PGA Tour, and the National Hockey League. A native of the Tampa Bay area, Tim has returned home after living much of his life in the northeast, including sixteen years in the Boston area. These days the Managing Editor of Sports Talk Florida can be found on Florida's golf courses when he's not working.