Rays come up just short vs. Rangers, finish first week 3-4

ST. PETERSBURG — In splitting their first six games of the season, the Rays’ three losses were somewhat lopsided, by six, seven and six runs. Wednesday was more a matter of coming up just short.

Though the final score was 4-1 Rangers, the game was decided on a fine line.

The inches, if even that much, by which Aaron Civale — in an overall strong start — misfired on a 1-1 cutter that Corey Seager instead drove over the rightfield fence for a 1-0 lead in the sixth.

“I tried to go away with it and just missed my spot, pulled it a little bit, maybe in a good location,” Civale said. “But he’s a pretty good hitter, and he can handle that part of the zone. So that’s a missed location on my part.”

And the final 90 feet Curtis Mead couldn’t gain for what would have been the tying run in the eighth off reliever David Robertson, after they’d been shut out and shut down by Texas starter Nathan Eovaldi. Mead was forced to stop at third on a hard single to right by Jose Siri, and then unable to tag up on a fly out to shallow right by Yandy Diaz.

“I don’t think that even with a good read right there, I don’t think that we’re scoring with (right fielder Adolis) Garcia’s arm out there. Siri hit the ball hard,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “And then with Yandy, I mean, I’ll take that matchup over and over with him at the plate. We just didn’t get it done today.”

As a result, the Rays wrapped their first homestand with a 3-4 mark, as they travel west for visits to the Rockies and Angels.

Cash said there aren’t many conclusions to be drawn from the first week of a 162-game season.

“I try not to put too much judgment in such a ... stretch,” he said. “I liked some things that we did. And I think that we can improve on some other things. But I’m guessing most teams are saying that right now.”

The Rays may have avoided a bigger issue, as Brandon Lowe — their lone healthy lefty slugger — was taken out of Wednesday’s game due to tightness in his left side. Lowe said he does not expect to miss any extended time.

“I’ll be available whenever I’m needed,” Lowe said. “I don’t see any issues.”

The Rays were shut out over the first seven innings by Nathan Eovaldi, as they often are. Eovaldi, an ex-Ray, allowed only four hits (three singles) and a walk and struck out eight, getting 23 swing-and-misses with what Cash said was his “pretty typical” mix of fastball, splitter, cutter and curve.

“Just kind of gave us fits,” Cash said.

Counting postseason play, which includes the clinching game of last year’s Wild Card Series, Eovaldi’s teams have won the last eight games he has pitched against his former mates, and he is 6-0 with a 1.44 ERA in that span.

“He looks like he was just mixing his pitches pretty well,” Diaz said, via team interpreter Manny Navarro. “He looked a lot like he did last year.”

Civale pretty much matched him in what was his second strong start to begin his first full season with the Rays, after being acquired from Cleveland at the trade deadline and going 2-3 with a 5.36 ERA in blue. Much like his Friday start against Toronto, in which he allowed one run over six innings, he was in command and control, scattering four hits, walking two and striking out eight.

“Really, really good,” Cash said. “You hate to see a performance like that, maybe the best hitter in baseball comes up and clips him on a pretty good pitch from my vantage point. ... Aaron was outstanding for us, gave us every opportunity.”

They finally got the opportunity to score in the eighth against Robertson, another former teammate. Mead, a right-handed hitter, pinch-hit for lefty swinger Ben Rortvedt and blooped in a single, then went to second on a wild pitch.

Mead said he was tempted to try to score on Siri’s single, but knew he didn’t get a good jump and that the Rays had their best hitter, Diaz, coming up. But when Diaz swung first pitch and managed only a 208-foot fly to right that Garcia easily corralled, that chance disappeared.

“Third-base coach Brady Williams) was telling me, ‘Yes, yes, yes,’” Mead said. “And then ‘No’ when he saw him kind of getting too close to home.”

Amed Rosario grounded into the final out. The Rangers scored three in the top of the ninth off reliever Garrett Cleavinger. The Rays got one back, and Jose Caballero’s 374-foot bid for a three-run tying homer was caught.

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