Blue Jays stun Rays with comeback win as Tampa Bay continues fall in the standings

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Things continue to go from bad to worse for the Tampa Bay Rays. Last week they lost three of four to the Yankees to effectively shut the door on their AL East chances, then, earlier this week, they lost reigning Cy Young winner Blake Snell to elbow surgery.

On Saturday, the Rays suffered their worst lost of the season to the lowly Blue Jays. Tampa took a 9-2 lead into the eighth inning, then watched relievers Hunter Wood and Oliver Drake give up six runs in the eighth and ninth innings to tie the game. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. swatted a three-run homer in the ninth, then Brandon Drury tied it with a solo shot.

The Rays and Blue Jays traded zeroes in the 10th and 11th innings before Teoscar Hernandez ended things with a walk-off home run in the 12th. It was his second home run of the game. According to FanGraphs, the Rays had a 99.7 percent chance — 99.7 percent! — to win the game at one point in the eighth inning. This game was the other 0.3 percent. Ouch.

Reminder: The Rays put a position player on the mound down five runs earlier this week because they apparently deemed it an unwinnable game. On Saturday, Toronto erased a seven-run deficit in the late innings. The baseball gods were not amused.

“It’s a tough loss,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said following Saturday’s game. “… It’s certainly a tough loss. We got really, really good pitching (early in the game). When you’ve got a (9-3 lead), you have to win that game. Offensively, you can’t ask for much more. You score nine runs, we expect to win.”

Saturday’s loss (TOR 10, TB 9) combined with the Red Sox beating the Yankees (BOS 9, NYY 5) moved Boston into the second wild-card position. The Rays slipped out of postseason position and into third place in the division. Tampa has lost eight of their last 11 games with some real heartbreakers mixed in, including Saturday’s.

The recent tailspin combined with Saturday’s events have dropped the Rays’ postseason odds to 48.0 percent, according to FanGraphs, the lowest they’ve been since April. Tampa started the year 14-4, remember. They’ve played .500 ball since (.506 ball, to be exact) and the breakout as a bona fide contender so many expected this year has yet to materialize.

Truth be told, Tampa’s problems run deep. Their late-inning bullpen situation is a disaster right now — Emilio Pagan and Colin Poche, two of Saturday’s culprits, have combined to allow 19 runs and 11 homers in their last 19 2/3 innings — and a few too many lineup regulars are slumping. Add in Snell’s injury and the Rays are taking on water quick.

At a minimum, the Rays will need bullpen help prior to next week’s trade deadline. Another right-handed bat and maybe even another starting pitcher would be welcome additions as well. Will the Rays go for it? It’s not often they go all-in at the deadline, and with their postseason chances fading, giving up prospects for quick fixes may not be the sensible move.

The Rays have a much smaller margin for error now than they did a few weeks ago, but they do still have 55 games remaining, so they are still very much in the postseason race. Things have to turn around soon though. The wild-card race is too tight to continue this skid. The Rays have to hope Saturday was rock bottom.

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