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Rays yield 5 residence runs in lopsided loss to Giants

ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays are beginning to feel some pressure.

Just 2½ weeks into the season, after watching their bullpen continue to struggle and their bats remain quiet in an 11-2 loss to the Giants Saturday at Tropicana Field, first baseman Yandy Diaz acknowledged he feels it.

“Everyone has to do a little bit for the team, and I think right now I’m just putting a little bit of pressure myself,” Diaz said through team interpreter Manny Navarro. “But there’s no question about that, and just kind of go out there and help the team however I can.”

Saturday’s nine-run loss was the worst so far this season for the Rays (8-7). The bullpen allowed seven runs, and the lineup went without a home run for the second straight game. Diaz, hitting .203, managed only a bloop single, just his second hit in six games. Randy Arozarena went 0-for-3, his batting average slipping to .192.

Tampa Bay’s offense disappeared just as San Francisco’s bats woke up.

The Giants (6-9) had not homered since April 3 but got five on Saturday. Thairo Estrada and LaMonte Wade Jr. went deep against starter Ryan Pepiot. Estrada and Jorge Soler homered off Chris Devenski. Matt Chapman connected off catcher Ben Rortvedt, who pitched the final two innings in a mop-up role.

Catcher Ben Rortvedt pitched the eighth and ninth innings as the Rays tried to save their bullpen.
Catcher Ben Rortvedt pitched the eighth and ninth innings as the Rays tried to save their bullpen. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]

The Rays had to turn to Rortvedt after Devenski allowed six runs on five hits and three walks over just two innings, adding to the bullpen’s rough start to the season.

The pen, a weapon in past seasons and expected to be again this year, dropped to the bottom of the big leagues in ERA (6.52) after the game. It has issued the most walks (42) of any bullpen in the big leagues.

“It is uncharacteristic, and I think we just keep pounding the message of ‘count controls everything,’” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “We’ve been so successful with controlling the count and getting ahead of hitters for so many seasons now, and I’m confident we’re going to get there.

“It just seems like, you know, a lot of times you have one or two guys in the bullpen where it’s challenging. It feels like there are a lot of guys in the bullpen who are having a little bit of problems consistently finding the zone.”

Chris Devenski (48) pitches during the sixth inning.
Chris Devenski (48) pitches during the sixth inning. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]

Devenski entered in the sixth, with the Giants already ahead 4-1. He walked the first three batters he saw, and all three came around to score. After giving up a solo shot to Soler and a two-run homer to Estrada in the seventh, his day was finished.

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“I think Devo is grinding a little bit. It’s not coming easy, and he gets ahead 0-2 and he ends up walking the leadoff guy (Michael Conforto),” Cash said. “He’s working really hard to kind of find his way a little bit right now, but he’s going to be a big part of our bullpen rotation. …. We’re confident in that. It’s just been a little challenging here as of late, but we’ll get him some rest and then get the ball back in his hands.”

Trying to spare their already beleaguered bullpen, the Rays handed the ball to Rortvedt to pitch the eighth and ninth innings. He limited the Giants to one run on three hits and two walks, striking out one, over the two innings.

“I appreciate Ben very much right there,” Cash said. “Look, it’s funny after the fact. But in the moment you really appreciate what the guy is doing, and I know our bullpen does.”

Pepiot allowed four runs on five hits over five innings. He walked one and struck out six. The right-hander, who dropped to 1-2, generated 15 swing-and-misses, including nine against his four-seam fastball.

The pitchers didn’t get much support from the offense.

Rays first baseman Yandy Díaz hits a single in the sixth inning.
Rays first baseman Yandy Díaz hits a single in the sixth inning. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]

The Rays managed only one run off Giants starter Logan Webb, who struck out four while allowing six hits and a walk over seven innings. The Rays scored their lone run off him when Jose Siri singled to lead off the third, moved to third on a Rortvedt single and scored when Diaz hit into a double play.

Rene Pinto’s sacrifice fly off reliever Nick Avila in the eighth gave Tampa Bay its only other run.

With Brandon Lowe and Josh Lowe on the injured list, the Rays’ lineup is especially reliant on Diaz and Arozarena, who have struggled so far with the additional weight.

“They’re working through something, and we know how talented they are. They’ll get through it,” Cash said. “It’s just right now in the moment they know and we know how big of a part they are to our offense, and we need them.”

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