The week started going badly Monday, when the Rays lost top starter Tyler Glasnow to an injury that will sideline him most — possibly all — of the rest of the season.
By Saturday night, they had lost a season-high five straight games and their hold on first place in the American League East, dropping behind the Red Sox. The latest loss was another cruel one, 6-5 to the Mariners in 10 innings.
Mitch Haniger ended it on the first pitch from J.P. Feyereisen, with a single to left that scored J.P. Crawford, the runner who started the inning at second.
It was the third walk-off loss for the Rays during the streak. And among the cruelest as they had rallied to tie it with two outs in the top of the ninth on a pinch-hit homer by Brandon Lowe.
The loss dropped the Rays to 43-29 and a half game behind the Red Sox, who come to Tropicana Field on Tuesday.
The Rays were counting on second-year lefty Josh Fleming to stop their slide.
They figured he matched up well with a Seattle lineup that featured five lefties, and his ability to throw strikes and get ground-ball outs would be a combination for success. They also expected him to pitch deep into the game.
For most of the night, he was quite effective. But in the second inning, he was a mess, allowing five runs.
The Rays got off to a good start, scoring two in the second off Seattle starter Logan Gilbert, the Orlando-area native and Stetson product.
Austin Meadows led of with a single and was running on the pitch when Joey Wendle laced a double down the third-base line and came around to score. Wendle went to third when rookie Taylor Walls dropped a bunt in such a good place he got a hit out of it. And he scored on a sac fly by Mike Zunino.
The Mariners came right back, however, and scored five.
Three straight hits off Fleming to start the home second got them one run, then a walk loaded the bases. Fleming regrouped for back-to-back strikeouts, but a sizzling liner off the bat of J.P. Crawford just cleared the rightfield fence for a grand slam. The 109-mph exit velocity showed how hard it was hit; the 16-degree launch angle how much of a line drive it was, the lowest for a homer in the majors this season.
The Rays cut the margin from 5-2 to 5-4 with a pair of solo homers. Zunino, the former Mariner, hit his 14th of the season leading off the fifth. Manuel Margot his seventh with two outs in the sixth, ending Gilbert’s night.
Then they tied it that way in the ninth, Lowe coming off the bench with two outs and hitting this 13th homer, taking Kendall Graveman deep.
Fleming worked an out into the seventh, throwing a career-high 110 pitches. He allowed the four hits in the second, and only three others, walking two and striking out five.
This was the second time in three appearances Fleming gave up five runs, which he had not done in his first 16 career outings. Just called-up reliever Drew Rasmussen followed and made an impressive Rays debut, retiring all five Mariners he faced.
Manager Kevin Cash talked before the game about how impressive Fleming had been, and why.
“What I marvel at is his strike throwing, his pitch efficiency and his willingness to attack within the zone and continue to do that,” Cash said. “Nothing derails him and nothing gets him off that. He’s going to pitch to his strength, and contact or damage, it does not get him out of that.
“We marvel at he knows himself really well and what makes him tick. what makes him special. I think that the results speak for themselves and when the results aren’t there, he doesn’t get away from that.
“That’s a pretty good trait for a young pitcher to have because it’s very easy in this game to second guess what you do well when maybe the results aren’t getting there. But he sticks to it really well.”
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