street. Petersburg – Thursday was a quiet day for the rays.
They pinned their star shortstop, Wanderer Franco, for at least two games due to his actions towards his teammates. MVP Shane McClanahan was knocked off the mound in the fourth inning due to midback tightness. Two other key players, Yandy Diaz and Luke Raleigh, needed field attention from the athletic coaching staff, and Raleigh was destined to shoot on his sore right hand.
They blew a pair of two-run leads against the Royals with the second worst record for the majors before losing 6-5.
Losing for the fourth time in five games to drop their best record in the majors to 52-26, the Rays allowed the team to record seven stolen bases, had two runners thrown out on third and were on the wrong end only in the fifth. A game in which the Royals won 52 games they fell behind after seven innings.
It was only the second time the Rays had lost when leading after seven innings, making it 43-2.
The winning run was scored on a 71.9 mph drum to first base that Diaz and reliever Pete Fairbanks were unable to make a clean play after an intro walk and two stolen bases.
“It’s a frustrating way to lose a game,” said Fairbanks.
It was a frustrating day for the Rays overall, with Franco’s seating being the source of the biggest news and McClanahan’s back being the main concern.
Both McClanahan – who said he was in some malaise ahead of his final start on Friday in San Diego – and manager Kevin Cash expressed optimism that he would not need to miss a start but conceded it was too early to say with certainty.
I don’t want to speculate. “It’s still very early,” McClanahan said. “But the main idea is we don’t think anything serious. Maybe just a precautionary step maybe to limit anything. I hope I don’t miss any starts and we get this thing in a couple of days.”
Cash said the Rays felt McClanahan “managed it really well” on Friday, but he was worried on Thursday, especially noting that his sprint speed — which usually averages around 97 mph — was down a bit. It marked lowest further in the fourth, with the four he bowled scoring 93.7, 94.4, 90.9 and 93.6. They had reliever Kevin Kelly warming up quickly, and Cash and athletic trainer Joe Benji quickly headed to the mound.
“We felt in that moment, (pitching coach Kyle Snyder) and I were talking, the way the ball came out and I think he would have liked it a little bit more,” Cash said. “He wanted to stay there. We definitely appreciate him wanting to get out there and keep competing. But I think in those moments, maybe we need to take the side of caution and make sure we’re doing it right.”
McClanahan said he “felt I could have continued” but conceded that he “didn’t feel 100%” and “may have made some adjustments that I shouldn’t have made or interfered with my normal mechanics” in compensation.
“I was just struggling to get the extension on the ball, and they took it,” he said. “I think they made the right move.”
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After the Rays took a 2-0 halftime lead, the Royals tied it up against McClanahan in the third. They moved into the seventh when No. 8 batter Drew Waters (who entered the game with a . 167 average) hit a first pitch off reliever Robert Stephenson.
The Rays stormed back in the seventh inning, when Francisco Mejia hit a tying homer and Randy Arzarena’s two-run single that pushed his RBI lead to a total of 53. But reliever Jason Adam, struggling to change it up, fumbled again, loading the bases on a two-out single and a walk twice before allowing a two-run single to Waters.
The Royals took the lead for good in ninth place.
Mikel Garcia pulled a five-pitch lead from Fairbanks, who hadn’t played since Friday, and quickly stole second and third. “In this case, we don’t play the lead, ideally we don’t play the front man,” Cash said, noting that Fairbanks’ things got “really bad” once Garcia finished third.
Fairbanks, who was somewhat intentional in his handoff, said there wasn’t anything he could do to prevent thefts, noting that Royals bench coach Paul Hoover, the Rays’ former catching coach, was well aware of the stealing opportunities.
“He knows our priority is the hitters, not necessarily the starters,” said Fairbanks.
It all led to the win on the slow roller by the speedy MJ Melendez, who was caught by Diaz but lobbed the ball behind Fairbanks.
Cash described it as “one of those tweener plays — no one’s fault there. Yandy did it right. Pete did it right by getting over it. Melendez gets off the line really quickly. And there wasn’t much we could do to get him out.”
Diaz, through team interpreter Manny Navarro, said it “was a tough play” and Melendez may have beaten the pitch, anyway. He could have tried to grab the ball, but that probably didn’t work either, Fairbanks said, and then pointed at lead character Frances Underwood from the Netflix show, “House of Cards.”
“It was like, ‘What do you want me to do, scream and scream?'” Fairbanks said. “It is what it is. It wasn’t a good hit. She was in the right place, and that cost us.”
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