Balk, Walks & Walk-Off Grand Slam Does The Rays In

MINNEAPOLIS-- In a wild, see-saw game before the All-Star break, the Tampa Bay Rays lost 11-7 to the Minnesota Twins, in a game their pitchers allowed 10 walks, balked in a run & for the second time this season, were done in by a walk-off grand slam.

Twins second baseman Brian Dozier hit a grand slam off Rays relief pitcher Matt Andriese in the 10th inning in a game that featured both teams blowing late leads.

Both Rays starting pitcher Ryne Stanek & Twins starter Fernando Romero worked 1-2-3 innings in their half of the first inning.  But after Romero retired the first two batters in the top of the second, outfielder Carlos Gomez started a two out three run rally with a single.  The rally included the Rays hitting five straight singles & included run-scoring singles by shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria, catcher Jesus Sucre & centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier.

Stanek entered the game with a streak of 9 consecutive starts without allowing a run. But that streak ended in the bottom of the second when the Twins answered the Rays three runs with one of their own.  Shortstop Jorge Polanco doubled to rightfield, took third on a flyout & scored on a single by Robbie Grossman.  Stanek struck out outfielder Jake Cave to end the inning & his start.  The Rays opener left the game after throwing 31 pitches, allowing one run two hits while striking out three batters.

Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash used newly acquired Hoby Milner as the team’s second pitcher.  Milner, 27, was acquired by the Rays on Saturday from the Philadelphia Phillies.  And the lanky, lefty reliever walked the first batter he faced, then struckout first baseman Joe Mauer & outfielder Eddie Rosario back to back.  After striking out Rosario, Milner was replaced by the Rays third pitcher, righty Andrew Kittredge, who got the last out of the third inning by getting Dozier to hit into a fielder’s choice.

The Rays threatened again with Smith & Sucre getting singles again but with runners on the corners, Romero struck out Kiermaier swinging to end the inning.  But in their following chance to add to their two run lead, Tampa Bay took advantage of getting the lead-off man on & made their lead three again when with one out second baseman Joey Wendle hit an opposite field run scoring double to left, driving in third baseman Daniel Robertson, who got hit by a pitch to start the top of the fifth inning.

After Kittredge, Cash turned to Ryan Yarbrough, who pitched a 1-2-3 inning in the bottom of the fifth & started the sixth.  But after allowing two batters to reach in the inning, he was replaced by Adam Kolarek.  And the lefty reliever got two fly outs to end the sixth.  But he ran into trouble in the seventh.  Grossman led the inning off with a single to center, took second on a sacrifice bunt & after a fly-out, he advanced to third on an infield single to deep short by Mauer.  And with runners on the corners, Kolarek was unable to get the third out of the inning & allowed a run scoring single to Rosario, making the score 4-2. 

The pitch to Rosario was Kolarek’s last of the game & he was replaced by Diego Castiilo, who got a ground ball but the ball turned into another infield hit, this one by Dozier.  And Dozier’s hit was fielded cleanly by Robertson.  But after Robertson’s throw to first, first baseman C.J. Cron attempted to throw out Rosario, who was advancing to third.  Cron’s throw was wild & both Rosario & Mauer scored to tie the game at four. 

With the score tied at 4 & after advancing all the way to third after Cron’s throw, Dozier came way down the third base line, distracting Castillo & the Rays rookie reliever was called for a balk, giving the Twins their four run of the inning & their first lead of the game, 5-4.

After Dozier scored on the balk, the benches cleared twice.  The first time was following a pitch that was low & inside to third baseman Eduardo Escobar.  Escobar looked towards Castillo & both benches began yelling at each other with Cash being one of the first to respond from the Rays dugout.  And after the team’s two third baseman, Escobar & Robertson exchanged words from a distance, the benches cleared. 

Once ordered was restored & the players returned to the dugouts & bullpens, Escobar struck out to end the inning but as the Rays infielders passed the Twins third baseman, more words were exchanged & again the benches & bullpens cleared.  No punches were thrown but the second bench clearing prompted the umpires to eject Escobar.

Tampa Bay took the lead back in the top of the eighth when with two out pinch hitter Matt Duffy reached on an infield single, stole second & after Adeiny Hechavarria walked, Sucre got his third hit of the game, this one a two out two run double, making the score 6-5.  But that lead didn’t last long again as the Twins scored twice in the eighth, mainly because Rays relief pitchers couldn’t find the strike zone & walked four batters in the inning.  Mauer walked with the bases loaded to tie the score then Rosario got his third hit of the game, a single to center off Rays reliever Sergio Romo, giving the Twins the 7-6 lead.

After blowing their second lead, the Rays got a lead-off single from Robertson, who then stole second, took third on a groundout & scored on Wendle's two-out single.

In the bottom of the 9th, the Twins loaded the bases, all on walks but Matt Andriese, the Rays 9th pitcher, struck out Grossman to end the inning & send the game into extra innings.

The Rays put two runners on in the 10th without a hit but couldn't get the run scoring hit.  And in the bottom of the inning, Andriese gave up a lead-off double to centerfielder Jake Cave.  And after Cave was sacrificed to third, the Rays were forced to load the bases & use five infielders, hoping to get an out without the winning run scoring.  But Dozier crushed that strategy when he hit an Andriese pitch over the wall in leftfield, making this the second game this year the Rays have lost due to a walk-off grand slam.  The other game being on July 5th in New York against the Mets when outfielder Jose Bautista hit a walk-off grand slam in the 9th inning.

The Rays (49-47) will resume play after the break on Friday when they host the Miami Marlins. Coverage begins at 6pm on 620 WDAE with Steve Carney & The Inside Pitch.  First pitch will be at 7:10pm.

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