CLEVELAND, Ohio — It was a long night of baseball and an even longer night of sitting around at Progressive Field on Saturday. And in the end, the Tampa Bay Rays lost 2-1 in 10 innings to the Cleveland Guardians but, weirdly, it didn't sting as bad as usual.
The reason? Because there were a lot of positives that came out of the night to soothe the loss. There was the electrifying return of Tyler Glasnow, who pitched three innings in his first game in 15 months, and looked good doing it. Even better, he felt so good that he would have loved to pitch another inning, which is a very good sign.
There was another dazzling night by the bullpen after that, which happens often. Relievers Calvin Faucher, Brooks Raley, Colin Poche and Jason Adam combined to strike out seven straight Guardians, something the Rays hadn't done since 2019.
And the last bit of good news came from Boston, where the Baltimore Orioles lost to the last-place Red Sox again. The Rays' magic number is now two which means if all goes well on Thursday, the Rays could have their playoff ticket punched by the end of the night.
Neither team did much offensively and the Guardians won it with a simple single to right from Amed Rosario in the 10th after an intentional walk, a bunt and another intentional walk.
The Rays had several chances, but couldn't get it done. The story, though, was Glasnow.
"I think it's good to have him back,'' Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash said with a laugh. "He looked good, felt good, very encouraged. Probably the best thing was that he was chomping to go back out there for the fourth, but we kind of had it in our mind that three innings was it.
"The first 98 strike, (pitching coach) Kyle (Snyder) and I looked at each other, it's a good feeling. (Catcher Christian) Bethancourt, coming out of the bullpen, he had never caught him, and he was even wowed by it.''
There was a lot to like in his 50-pitch outing. He threw first-pitch strikes to nine of the 11 batters he faced. he gave up a home run to Gabriel Arias in the third inning, and an infield single to Will Brennan right after that, but he pitched out of trouble to end his night on a high.
It was good to be back, he said.
"It felt normal, like I picked up right where I left off,'' Glasnow said. "It was a nice moment to be out there and be healthy and finish it. Everything felt pretty synched up and everything felt pretty consistent.
"For me, I'll be able to tell a day or two after, but I can tell this is good. Everything felt fine. Having that similar routine sort of takes your mind out of it. Nerves, or excitement, I was just trying to do my routine. In the moment, it felt very similar to a normal start from last year.''
Glasnow, provided he bounces back nicely, likely will get another start next week in Boston in the Rays' final series of the season. Then, it's on to the playoffs, where he gives Cash and the Rays another big weapon in an already very good pitching staff.
That playoff pursuit is nearing its end thanks to the Orioles' recent struggles. Thursday could be an exciting day. Baltimore and Boston play an afternoon game at Fenway starting at 1:35 p.m. ET. The Rays and Guardians don't start until 6:10 p.m. ET, so they'll have their fate in their hands at first pitch if the Orioles lose.
They could have been another step closer had they found a way to score more on Wednesday, but Guardians starter Triston McKenzie was very good, pitching six innings and allowing just one run and three hits. Tampa Bay's lone run came in the second inning, when Bethancourt drove in Ji-Man Choi, who had two hits himself on the night for only the second time since Aug. 5
Their best chance came in a long — and very drawn out — seventh inning. The Rays had loaded the bases with a Choi single and walks to Isaac Paredes and Taylor Walls and only one out, but then the rains come, and the Rays had to sit through a 1 hour, 3 minute delay.
When they came back out, No. 9 hitter Jose Siri, the fastest player on the Rays, hit a ground ball that the Guardians turned into a nifty double play, ending the threat. Sitting and waiting, and then watch a potential big rally disappear so quickly, wasn't optimal.
"It was very tough sitting around,'' Margot said. "Your body gets a little bit heavy, and you get tired. With Siri up, you hope for something a little better, but that's just the way the game goes.''
In the eighth inning, Margot led off with a double — which would have made a world of difference had it come an inning earlier — but was thrown out trying to steal third. Randy Arozarena struck out, and Wander Franco flied out to center, and another threat was gone.
"I just wanted to make something happen, and it's easier to do that when you're on third base,'' Margot said. "We haven't been scoring many runs, and I thought that we needed that.''
It was the second straight extra inning game for the Rays, who won 6-5 on Tuesday night. They used nine pitchers in that game, and eight more on Wednesday. It was just the fourth time in club history they had used eight or more on back-to-back days and not since September of 2019.
The Rays come back to the ballpark Thursday with full knowledge for their situation in the standings. They'll turn to starter Jeffrey Springs, who's pitching with an extra day's rest thanks to Glasnow's insertion into the rotation. Springs is 9-4 with a 2.56 ERA and has been very good all year. He'll face Cal Quantrill, who is 14-5 with a 3.49 ERA.
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