BALTIMORE — Standing in the quiet clubhouse more than 40 minutes after the marathon 8-6 loss to the Orioles, Wander Franco said there indeed was a reason he did not slide during a sequence in the 13th inning that could have put the Rays ahead.
And that might be more concerning than the disappointing outcome of Friday night’s game, as the star shortstop said he again felt something in the right quad that has sidelined him previously and limited his running.
“On the way to home when I rounded third, I felt a little discomfort in my leg,” he said, via team interpreter Manny Navarro. “So that was the reason why the thought of not sliding came about.”
Franco said he hasn’t felt right for a few days. No decision had been made yet if he would be able to play Saturday, and there had been no talk of placing him on the injured list.
His status added to the frustration of the night, as the Rays blew three leads before losing in the 13th, when Roughened Odor hit a two-run walkoff homer off Ralph Garza Jr., snapping Tampa Bay’s streak of wins against Baltimore at 15.
To beat any team as often as the Rays did, 21 of 22 times since the start of last season going into play Friday, manager Kevin Cash said “you’ve got to be really fortunate.”
By the end of Friday’s 4-hour, 22-minute game, the Rays saw a lot go wrong.
First they let a three-run lead get away in the seventh, in part due to a ball popping out of leftfielder Randy Arozarena’s glove. Then they blew a two-run lead in the 10th, after Matt Wisler walked the first two hitters. They blew a one-run lead in the 11th when Ryan Thompson, a strike away from ending the game, allowed a typing single.
“I think that we did a lot of good things, unfortunately we just countered that with some things that weren’t ideal to put us in a position to win,” Cash said “We had opportunities. We capitalized on some of them. Some of them we didn’t. The longer that lengthens out, you’re putting yourself behind and ultimately they came up and had a big hit.”
Garza was the ninth pitcher used by the Rays in a game started by Jalen Beeks as the opener. One pitcher they could have used in several high-leverage spots but didn’t was Andrew Kittredge, who Cash revealed after the game had been dealing with back issues over the past several days.
“That was a tough one,” said centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier. “But you win as a team, you lose as a team and move on. That’s all you can do.”
No-hit through four innings by Tyler Wells, the Rays took the lead in the fifth on a three-run homer by Mike Zunino off the leftfield foul pole.
Thanks in part to a 99.7 mph strike from rightfield to home plate by Brett Phillips for the final out of the fifth, the Rays took the lead into the seventh but let it get away. Ryan Yarbrough and Brooks Raley let runners on, and the play by Arozarena — who had four hits — factored in Baltimore’s three-run rally.
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“Just kind of misplayed it a little bit,” Cash said. “I would guess that’s a ball that Randy says that he should secure for an out, and it just didn’t happen.”
The Rays (23-16) got two runs in the 10th, on hits by Phillips and Yandy Diaz. But Wisler’s two walks, plus the runner who starts on second, loaded the bases. Anthony Santander slashed a single to right to score two and make it 5-5. A good throw from shortstop Franco to the plate helped keep it that way.
Then the Rays went ahead again in the 11th. Kiermaier delivered the go-ahead run, but the O’s again got even. After the Rays intentionally walked Cedric Mullins, Austin Hays singled in the tying run off Thompson with two outs and a full count.
The Rays looked to briefly take the lead at the top of the 13th. Kiermaier singled to left with two outs, and Franco headed home and was initially called safe, even though he didn’t slide. The replay was so obvious that the call was wrong that the Orioles players walked off the field as soon as it was shown on the stadium video board, and it was indeed overturned.
Kiermaier said when he hit it, he expected Franco to score, though he noted the strong throw by Hays to the plate.
“I thought we were scoring,” he said. “I watched the replay, Wander had a good secondary lead and liked our chances right there. Guy made a great throw. I don’t know if a slide would have helped or not or anything. But it is what it is, we didn’t score right there and they scored two in the next half (inning). I thought we had it. But Austin Hays is a really good outfielder out there. He has a cannon for an arm, very accurate. And he made a perfect throw.”
Cash, who made no mention of Franco’s leg issue when talking to reporters right after the game, said it was Franco’s call on the slide.
“It looked like he got a good jump, a good read,” Cash said “Sometimes there’s an argument that you’re going to be a little quicker coming through the plate like he did. It’s just unfortunate that (catcher Anthony) Bemboom got the glove on him.”
Franco said he “actually mentioned I didn’t want to go in to run (as the designated runner on second) for that reason,” but he did anyway. When the ball was first hit, he also thought he had a chance to make it home safely.
“If the leg was fine, I would have been safe,” he said.
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George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism