Closing Time: A meltdown for the ages

Monday's game between Tampa Bay and Cleveland was supposed to be special because of how it started, but ultimately the story – a horror story from the Rays side of things – came at the end.

The Rays staked David Price(notes) to a quick 10-0 lead in his first MLB turn of 2009, but Price did his best Scott Kazmir(notes) imitation on this night (3.1 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 5 BB, 6 K, 100 pitches) and didn't make it out of the fourth. "He had great stuff but he was all over the place," Joe Maddon conceded. Lance Cormier(notes) followed with 2.2 scoreless innings and Joe Nelson(notes) worked a clean seventh before things started to fall apart.

Unheralded Dale Thayer(notes) took the ball for the Rays in the bottom of the eighth holding a 10-2 lead (a mop-up assignment all the way), and did what he could to keep the Indians in the game (1.1 IP, 5 H, 4 R). Randy Choate(notes) followed for one batter, a fielder's choice that was mishandled, and then Maddon decided to get serious and bring in his best finishers.

Grant Balfour(notes) was a set-up superstar in 2008, but like Hong-Chih Kuo(notes) in the National League, the pixie dust hasn't carried over this year. He got Mark DeRosa(notes) on a liner for the second out, but Ryan Garko(notes) followed with a homer and Asdrubal Cabrera(notes) walked. Make it 10-8, Tampa, and time for Jason Isringhausen(notes) to give it a go.

Isringhausen has worn No. 44 for his entire career, but on this night he 86ed his new club. Consecutive walks to Ben Francisco(notes), Jamie Carroll and Grady Sizemore(notes) plated one run, and then Victor Martinez(notes) greeted a rare Izzy strike with a single to center, scoring the two final runs and giving Cleveland another fantastic finish to add to the list. It also completed the largest blown lead in Tampa Bay history, and it had nothing to do with Chad Orvella(notes), Albie Lopez or Esteban Yan(notes).

"The walks are unacceptable," Isringhausen said after the crushing defeat. "I'd rather give up home runs than walk guys." Of course Isringhausen walked 22 in 42.2 innings last year with the Cardinals, but we won't mention that after such a tough loss.

"We didn't pitch well," Maddon offered, in case anyone happened to miss that fact. "We did not finish things off."

Not everyone in the Tampa bullpen gets flagged for this giveaway, of course. Dan Wheeler(notes) was getting a day of rest. J.P. Howell(notes) also had the day off and still has the profile of a possible closer (2.86 ERA, 24 Ks in 22 IP), no matter that he he's left-handed. Nelson hasn't been effective in May (7.20 ERA, 2.40 WHIP), but he picked an interesting night to work a perfect inning. No one considers Cormier to be in this save chase, really, but he does have the best numbers in the bullpen right now (2.12 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, .211 BAA), even as they've come in middle-relief and from a pitch-to-contact style.

We know that Maddon is one of the most unconventional managers out there, he'll consider anything that he thinks will work, no matter if it follows the book or not. Let's work through this mess in the comments – how are you hedging your Tampa Bay bets today?

We'd be remiss if we didn't sneak in a quick word about Tampa's middle infield situation. Jason Bartlett(notes) (ankle) sat out Monday but isn't expected to be out long. Akinori Iwamura(notes), unfortunately, won't be back; he's got a torn ACL and is done for the year. Maddon has plenty of options to replace Iwamura (Willy Aybar(notes), Reid Brignac(notes), and our adopted son Ben Zobrist(notes)), and Monday afternoon he told us "you're going to see them all." True to his word, they all played in Monday's game; Aybar got the call at second and went 0-for-4 with a run, Zobrist started in right and had a 4-2-2-1 line, and Brignac went 1-for-5 as the shortstop, scoring one and knocking in two.

Time to put the Pittsburgh bullpen back under the microscope; we have another Matt Capps(notes) situation. Capps left Monday's game after taking a line drive off his pitching elbow, and while he doesn't have a fracture or any structural damage, it's still possible he'll miss some time from this. If you're speculating for stand-in saves, you can play the "guy from the eighth inning" card in John Grabow(notes) (4.71 ERA, 1.76 WHIP, .313 BAA), or you can chase the reliever actually pitching the most effectively right now, Jesse Chavez(notes) (1.83 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, .214 BAA). We also should mention Sean Burnett(notes) (3.00 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, .183 BAA), who got the save Monday after the three aforementioned relievers were all out of the game.

Mark Teixeira(notes) (4-3-2-2) and Alex Rodriguez(notes) (5-2-5-4) teased their former fans in Arlington as the Yanks rolled in a rout, but the juicy fantasy angle comes from what Phil Hughes(notes) did on the mound (8 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 6 K). He's apparently not fazed at all by this park; Hughes almost threw a no-hitter in Texas last year. The Matt Harrison(notes) run crashed in a hurry; he's been rocked for 20 hits and 12 runs over his last two turns.

Chris Carpenter(notes) didn't get a win but he might have turned in the best start of the year by anyone, shutting down the Brewers for eight innings (2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 10 K) and needing just 93 pitches. He had a perfect game into the seventh. Yovani Gallardo(notes) was pretty darn good on the other side (8 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 4 BB, 6 K), though he needed 126 pitches over his stint. The Brewers won the game in the bottom of the tenth on Bill Hall's(notes) single.

Not an Injury Blog: Ryan Doumit(notes) (thumb) is scheduled for a CT scan later this week, and the team is hoping he might be able to play by the middle of June. … Let's hope it's just the run-of-the-mill flu, and not the serious stuff, that kept Derrek Lee(notes) out Monday. … A decision on Jose Reyes (calf) will come later this week. Don't you love it when day-to-day turns into week-to-week? … Chipper Jones(notes) (toe) continues to pinch hit and should be able to avoid the DL, though it's not clear when he'll play again. … Kenji Johjima(notes) broke his left big toe and a trip to the DL is imminent. … Andre Ethier(notes) is part of the toe jam as well, missing his second game in a row Monday (his mates did fine without him, throwing 19 hits and 16 runs at the Rockies in Coors).

Speed Round: I'm out of superlatives for Adrian Gonzalez(notes) (homer) and Joe Mauer(notes) (homer), but you're invited to praise them in the comments, with haiku being the preferred homage. … Carlos Marmol(notes) won't rejoin the Cubs until Wednesday; his wife is expecting a child. … Jordan Schafer(notes) took the Golden Sombrero on Monday, striking out four times. … Nelson Cruz(notes) did all he could to keep Ellis Evans happy, clocking his 12th homer and stealing base No. 8. … The White Sox threw 17 runs and 24 hits at the Angels (Alexei Ramirez(notes) contributed four singles), but Carlos Quentin(notes) wasn't in on the fun; he left the game in the first inning with a sore left foot. He's been dealing with planter fasciitis for a while, and will likely be out the remainder of this series. … Kevin Cameron(notes) picked up a working-class save for the A's in a 6-1 victory, three scoreless innings. Just what the A's need, another solid reliever (1.93 ERA), though no one considers Cameron a threat to our nominal save targets here. … Other handshakers on this Memorial Day: Francisco Cordero(notes) (12), George Sherrill(notes) (a sneaky 10), Jonathan Papelbon(notes) (12), Heath Bell(notes) (13), Matt Lindstrom(notes) (9, retired three of four men) and Francisco Rodriguez(notes) (apparently fine, 13).