Going into Tuesday night's game with the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Tampa Bay Rays were hoping Blake Snell, making his first start since July after minor elbow surgery, would show some of the form that helped him capture last season's American League Cy Young award.
Even though Snell pitched two innings, he was awfully impressive, retiring all six Dodger batters he faced, striking out four. And while that was great news for the Rays, their bullpen could not stop Corey Seager, as the Dodgers' shortstop drove in four runs, helping lead the Dodgers to a 7-5 win at Dodger Stadium.
With the loss, and wins by the A's and Indians, the Rays now hold a tenuous half-game lead over the Indians for the second wild card spot in the American League. They now trail the A's for the top spot by two games.
This was a game of bullpen matchups, as both starters, if you will, did not last past the second inning. As with his turn to bat due in the top of the third, manager Kevin Cash opted to pinch hit for Snell, finishing his night.
But the key play came in the Dodgers' half of the seventh, as Max Muncy led off the inning with a grounder to Ji-Man Choi, who tossed the ball to pitcher Peter Fairbanks, who was late covering first. That opened the door for the Dodgers to take control of the game.
It was almost like a procession of Gashouse Gorillas that followed: Enrique Hernandez doubled, Seager doubled to drive in two, Will Smith walked, Joc Pederson grounded out to Choi, and Gavin Lux drove in another run with a single, ending Fairbanks' night.
Cole Sulser came on to get the final two outs of the inning, but not before allowing an RBI single to A.J. Pollock and an RBI double to Cody Bellinger, giving the Dodgers that 7-2 lead.
The Rays made a late run in the eighth after being down 7-2, scoring three on a Travis d'Arnaud RBI single and a Jesus Aguilar two-run homer, but they couldn't complete the comeback, as Dodgers' closer Kenley Jansen shut the Rays down in order in the ninth.
The Rays scored first in the top of the second without the benefit of a hit, as Joey Wendle walked with one out, then stole second. Dodgers' starter Caleb Ferguson then balked Wendle to third, and Willy Adames drove Wendle in with a sac fly.
Tampa Bay got their first hit in the fourth, a one-out single by Matt Duffy. Wendle followed with another single, then Adames forced Wendle out at second. Kevin Kiermaier, who went 0-for-4, then struck out to end that threat.
The Dodgers took the lead in the fifth, as the Rays brought in Colin Poche, who walked Bellinger to lead off the inning, giving the Dodgers their first baserunner. Bellinger stole second, then Poche hit Max Muncy with a pitch, putting the first two hitters on. Those runners advanced on a slow roller by Hernandez to Ji-Man Choi for the first out of the inning. Seager then followed with the Dodgers' first hit of the game, a two-run ground-rule double, which put them ahead, 2-1.
Choi then tied the game in the sixth with a solo shot off Dodgers' reliever Pedro Baez.
In all, each team used eight pitchers, and in an oddity, the Dodgers used three pitchers in the seventh to get a 1-2-3 inning.
The Rays had to be encouraged by Snell's outing, but with 10 games left, they need more than that to secure a playoff spot.
*Austin Meadows extended his hitting streak to 15 games with a double in the eighth inning.
*Fairbanks took the hard-luck loss because of the error that turned the tide. He lasted only a third of an inning, giving up five runs, three of those earned. Kenta Maeda, pitching in relief, got the win.
*The Rays will send Brendan McKay (2-4, 5.27 ERA) to the mound in Wednesday's finale at Chavez Ravine. The Dodgers will counter with Tony Gonsolin (3-2, 2.83 ERA). Game time is 8:10 p.m. ET.