'It's a shame': Tigers blow 4-1 lead in 9th, lose 7-4 to Rays in extra innings
St. Petersburg, Fla. — The Tigers were three outs away from evening the series.
Up 4-1 and with closer Gregory Soto on the mound, the Tampa Bay Rays stormed back to tie the game in the bottom of the ninth and then walked it off in the 10th, beating the Tigers 7-4 Friday night at Tropicana Field.
"I won't go back to the hotel very happy and our guys won't either," manager AJ Hinch said. "We earned an almost-won. We didn't finish it off. But we're not going hang our heads or pout. We're not going let it linger. It's not who this team is."
The image of Brett Phillips' jubilant dash around the bases as the Tigers dejectedly walked off the field may linger a bit.
Phillips, with two runners on in the 10th, belted a wheel-house fastball (95 mph) off reliever Byran Garcia deep into the seats in right field to end it and the Rays lowered their magic number to clinch the American League East to 7.
"These guys are in first place for a reason," said Michael Fulmer, who had to hastily enter the game in the bottom of the ninth. "They have a very good hitting lineup and a very good pitching staff. You can't give a first-place team like that any extra momentum in the ninth or the 10th inning."
The first batter Soto faced in the ninth, Manuel Margot, lined one (99.9 mph exit velocity) right back at him. It caught him flush on his pitching hand. He stayed in the game but he walked Francisco Mejia and gave up a single to Brandon Lowe to load the bases.
"It was the second time he got smoked in his hand, but he assured us he was fine," Hinch said. "But he walked a guy and it looked like his spinner slider wasn't the same."
Hinch watched left-handed hitting Lowe, who struggles against left-handed pitching, put a good swing on a slider and came to get Soto.
"It was a combination certainly of being conservative after he'd gotten smoked in the pitching hand and the pitches he made afterward gave me a little bit of a pause," Hinch said. "We decided to take him out."
Fulmer, who heated up in a hurry, was summoned. He was greeted by a two-run single from pinch-hitter Yandy Diaz. After a wild pitch put the tying run at third, Randy Arozarena's sacrifice fly tied the game.
"There's no excuses on my part about being ready or anything like that," he said. "Everything felt good. It just didn't go my way."
That Diaz's hit was a blooper (78 mph exit velocity) was no consolation.
"I was trying to get a first-pitch ground ball to maybe get a double-play," Fulmer said. "I knew he'd be aggressive. Went sinker inside and maybe caught a little too much plate. He got enough of it to dump it into center..
"It was a tough day for me. Everything felt good. I didn't have a second-guess on any pitch. Just one of those days."
Soto was expected to get tests on the hand after the game, but Hinch didn't have any medical updates.
"I'll trust Soto with any lineup, any situation," Fulmer said. "He's our number one guy. To have him try to pitch after he got hit in the hand, I'm sure it wasn't easy. But he was going out there and giving everything he had."
It had been all Tigers before that.
Akil Baddoo blasted the third pitch of the game, a 95-mph fastball from right-hander Luis Patino, into the seats in right field. It was his first ever lead-off home run.
After Baddoo’s homer, his 13th of the season, Harold Castro and Niko Goodrum both doubled in a two-run second inning. Castro’s sacrifice fly in the third scored the fourth run.
Robbie Grossman, who walked to start the rally, challenged the arm of left fielder Arozarena's arm on a medium depth fly ball. The throw was on the mark, but Grossman just beat the tag, as confirmed by video review.
Patino settled in, though, and kept the Tigers off the board through the sixth. In fact, they managed one hit after the third. They had two other base runners, both reached on errors and both were erased by double-plays.
Still, it looked like the Tigers' bullpen was going to make the three-run lead hold up. After Casey Mize started and gave up a one in three innings, Derek Holland, Drew Hutchison, Alex Lange and Kyle Funkhouser blanked the Rays through eight inning.
"We lived on the edge a lot in this one," Hinch said. "They had a lot of LOBs (10 runners left on base) and we were able to escape a few bad innings. They were a little bit of a ticking time-bomb at the end.
"It's a shame we couldn't finish off the night because we played pretty good to put ourselves in position to win. But you have to get all of the outs."