What a painful loss. Niemann throws seven brilliant innings only to see the 8th inning fall apart due to bad bullpen management. Sure, Grant Balfour left a 96 mph fastball up to Placido Polanco who ran into it and knocked it over the fence but Balfour never should have been in the game in the first place. Why was he left in to face Curtis Granderson when 98% of Granderson’s offensive production this season has come against right-handed pitching? Rather than bring in one of the three lefties the Rays have in the bullpen, Maddon left Balfour in the game with clear instruction to throw fastballs away to prevent Granderson from yanking one out of the yard. Instead, Granderson earned the walk which set up Polanco’s heroics. What was wrong with bringing in Shouse or Choate and giving Granderson a tougher matchup? If they walk him, then bring in Bradford or Wheeler to pitch to Polanco. The only reason Polanco hit that ball out was because Balfour supplied all the power on that pitch.
The loss puts the Rays five games back of the Red Sox for now, but the Red Sox are up 7-0 on the Jays in the 6th so you might as well make it 5.5 games. Even if the Rays were to sweep the Red Sox this week, it would still put them 2.5 games back and the Rays’ remaining six games against their wild card competition would all be on the road – where these types of games have happened all too often. As they say, a picture is worth 1,000 words so I will leave you with one: