The Tampa Bay Rays were the best in the American League when they began play last week. They led Boston by two games in The American League East and were headed to Chicago to play the White Sox, where two of the best teams in baseball would meet for a three-game series.
The Rays won the first game in the series 5-2.
The next night, Shane McClanahan worked five innings, giving up two runs, but got zero support from the offense in a 3-0 loss.
In an extra-inning loss the following afternoon, Pete Fairbanks, who had been pretty reliable, allowed a walk-off double in the 10th inning that gave the Sox an 8-7 win.
After their lost weekend in Seattle, the Rays have fallen to second place in the American League East, one-half game behind Boston with a 43-30 record.
The Rays finished up this road trip 1-6, their worst of the season, after dropping four straight to a Seattle team struggling in all facets of the game.
This was also the first time the Rays had been swept in a four-game series since the Tigers did it in July 2016.
The Mariners trailed in all four games and scored the game-winning run in the final inning three times.
Kevin Cash talked about how the Mariners capitalized on every opportunity. “Every opportunity that was presented to them, it felt like they capitalized. And that’s why we’re going home from this trip with no wins.”
Two things have caused this fall from grace for the Rays. The offense continues to be inconsistent, and the bullpen has imploded late in the game in five of the six losses.
In the first loss in Seattle, Pete Fairbanks entered the game in the bottom of the ninth with the Rays up 5-4 and allowed two runs in one-third of an inning as the Rays lost 6-5.
The Rays would manage just five hits the following night as the Mariners posted a 5-1 win over the Rays.
JP Feyereisen gave up two runs in the bottom of the ninth the following day as the Rays dropped another 6-5 decision to the Mariners.
Sunday afternoon, with the bases loaded and nobody out in the bottom of the tenth inning, Diego Castillo gave up a walk-off home run as the Mariners won the game 6-2 and swept the series with the Rays.
This collapse of the bullpen will have to be addressed sooner rather than later. Nick Anderson, the Rays closer last season, is still at least a month away from returning.
–Michael Wacha started on Sunday afternoon and was unimpressive in his two innings of work as he has been all season. Wacha has eight starts and 12 appearances this season and is 1-2 with a 5.21 ERA.
In the last three years with three different teams, Wacha is 8-13 with an ERA of 4.91. Perhaps it’s time the Rays cut ties with this veteran and let one of the young guns at Durham take over this role.
–With Wander Franco’s arrival on Tuesday, the Rays will take on the Boston Red Sox for first place in the AL East. This will be a good measuring stick for the Rays to see how they measure up against some good competition.
The Rays will also play the Angels and the Washington Nationals on this homestand.