Rays closer Kyle Farnsworth was handed the ball in the ninth inning Saturday night with a 5-3 lead over the visiting Red Sox. He retired the first batter he faced, Marco Scutaro, on a weak groundout.
But almost nothing went right from there.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Jacoby Ellsbury hit back-to-back home runs to the right field seats at Tropicana Field, tying the game suddenly at 5-5.
Dustin Pedroia then doubled and Adrian Gonzalez drew a walk before Rays manager Joe Maddon decided to make a change at pitcher.
Evan Longoria eventually saved the day with a walkoff RBI single in extra innings, but the surging Rays may be without their battered closer for the next week or so.
It was Farnsworth’s second straight blown save opportunity, and he was diagnosed afterwards with tenderness in his throwing elbow. This according to Chris Girandola of MLB.com.
“It just never got loose,” Farnsowrth said. “I could never just finish my pitches. I tried to go out there and do the best I could, but I didn’t have my best stuff. It’s tough because I want to go out there and perform for my team, but I just have to take it day by day.”
The Rays have quietly fought their way back into the American League Wild Card mix and currently sit just 4 1/2 games back of the Red Sox. It’s not a great time for Farnsworth to suddenly fall to pieces.
Yankees first baseman Greg Bird gave his team tons of confidence to hand him the everyday job at first base to start the 2017 regular season, batting .451/.556/1.098 with eight home runs in 51 spring at-bats. But he’s followed that up by hitting .107/.254/.214 through the first month of the regular season.
GM Brian Cashman doesn’t have any intent to demote Bird back to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch reports. Cashman said, “It’s not even an option for me in my mind right now, at all.”
Bird didn’t start Sunday’s game against the Orioles, a 7-4 loss in 11 innings. Lefty Wade Miley started for the Orioles, prompting manager Joe Girardi to put Chris Carter into the lineup at first base. If Bird isn’t able to figure things out, Carter might have an increased role on the team.
Rays starter Chris Archer threw his first pitch to Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista behind the slugger’s back with one out in the first inning of Sunday afternoon’s game in Toronto. Bautista and Archer then had a staredown. Home plate umpire Jim Wolf issued warnings to both teams. Bautista ultimately flied out to right field and he appeared to have a quick word with Archer on his way back to the dugout.
Archer could have been exacting revenge — euphemistically known as “protecting his teammate” — because Jays reliever Joe Biagini hit Rays outfielder Steven Souza in the seventh inning of Saturday’s game. Souza was forced to leave the game and underwent an X-ray, which came back negative. He was held out of Sunday’s lineup. Biagini’s pitch did not appear to be intentional.
The Jays won Sunday’s contest 3-1 with no further incident. The two clubs meet again in Tampa for a three-game series starting on May 5, so we’ll see if Sunday was the last of the bad blood between them.