Sloppy Rays fall into tie for AL Wild Card lead
Season-high three errors push TB even with Cleveland, up 1 on Texas
By Bill Chastain / 9/27/2013 11:45 PM ET
TORONTO -- All the talk heading into Friday night's Rays-Blue Jays game at Rogers Centre focused on the roof being closed.
After all, weather conditions outside were pristine. However, what mattered most to the Blue Jays was not the fans' enjoyment of the lovely fall weather, rather the success of knuckleballer R.A. Dickey, who has had much better results this season with the roof closed.
While Dickey did his part in the Blue Jays' 6-3 win over the Rays by taking care of business on the mound, Tampa Bay helped him out with some suspect glove work.
The Rays committed a season-high three errors, and their magic number to clinch an American League Wild Card berth remained at two, as the Rangers beat the Angels on Friday night. Meanwhile, the Indians moved into a tie with the Rays for the top AL Wild Card spot after they defeated the Twins.
"We just did not play well tonight," Rays manager Joe Maddon lamented.
Dickey entered Friday night's game with a 3.95 ERA in seven home starts with the roof closed this season, including his past three home starts in which he allowed just six earned runs in 20 1/3 innings. When contrasted to Dickey's 5.51 ERA with the roof open at Rogers Centre this season, the Blue Jays' decision to keep the roof closed was no surprise on a night of many surprises.
Ben Zobrist sprang the first one by re-routing a 3-0 Dickey pitch over the wall in right with one out in the first.
Delmon Young added a solo shot to left off Dickey in the second, giving Young his 100th career home run and the Rays a 2-0 lead.
So much for the roof being a factor.
Given the way Tampa Bay starter Jeremy Hellickson was pitching, the early part of the game had the look of a Rays playoff coronation, as he retired the first nine Blue Jays he faced, three by strikeouts.
Jose Reyes broke Hellickson's spell with a single through the middle to open the fourth. Munenori Kawasaki sacrificed Reyes to second before Brett Lawrie reached on Evan Longoria's fielding error at third.
Suddenly the building blocks for a big inning were in place, and the Blue Jays began to roll.
Moises Sierra and Anthony Gose followed with RBI singles. One out later, Ryan Goins singled to center and Rays center fielder Sam Fuld allowed the ball to sneak under his glove. Gose and Sierra each scored as Goins rounded the bases and the ball rolled toward the wall. Goins tried to score, but right fielder Matt Joyce threw to Zobrist, who threw a strike on the relay to catcher Jose Lobaton for the third out.
"Charged it hard trying to be aggressive and looking to throw the guy out," Fuld said. "I don't know, I think I just took my eye off of it a second too early. ... You can't really imagine a worse scenario as an outfielder."
Holding a 4-2 lead, Toronto got busy again in the fifth after Hellickson walked Reyes and Kawasaki with two outs. Lawrie singled to center to drive home Reyes, then Sierra hit an infield single and Longoria threw wild to first. Kawasaki scored to give the Blue Jays a 6-2 lead.
"The guys have been picking me up all year, offensively and defensively, so it would have been nice to pick them up for once," said Hellickson, who took his 10th loss of the season. "The fifth was where it really hurt, two two-out walks and I couldn't make a pitch."
Not only did the Rays suddenly trail by four, they also had their highest error total in a single game this season.
"That doesn't happen too often to them," Toronto manager John Gibbons said. "They take away hits, they and Baltimore set a fielding record, I think, in baseball. That's one of their strengths, they have great pitching, they're a great defensive team. But that happens in baseball sometimes. It's a little bit different surface than it is in Tampa, but that's an aberration and that happens in baseball."
Tampa Bay threatened in the eighth when Reyes dropped Lobaton's liner to start the inning. Dickey then threw away a potential double-play ball on pinch-hitter Wil Myers' grounder. One out later, Zobrist walked to load the bases and chase Dickey. Sergio Sanchez entered the game and threw one pitch to James Loney, who grounded into an inning-ending 4-6-3 double play.
Dickey allowed two runs in 7 1/3 innings to pick up the win and finish his first season with the Blue Jays at 14-13.
"I don't think there should be any credit taken away from Dickey," Longoria said. "He pitched really well. We got off to a good start offensively with the runs and then he settled in.
"I told [first-base coach George Hendrick] after I got out the first time that it was good to get off to a good start. But traditionally against us, if he's able to settle in, he's gotten better as the innings go on. He did it again. He was able to kind of settle in and get into the rhythm of the game and kind of shut us down offensively after that."
Regarding the roof, there was no closure on that issue, but Rays manager Joe Maddon did note: "I'd rather that they had opened it up tonight. That's it."
Despite Friday night's loss, the Rays have still won 12 of their last 16. As for the team's state of mind, Zobrist summed up the feeling best when he said, "We just need to bounce back tomorrow and control our own destiny."