ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays got Tyler Glasnow back in their rotation Saturday and had plenty to feel good about as he worked into the fifth inning, flashed his dominant stuff and struck out eight.
But his return didn’t do anything to fix the bullpen, as the Rays let another lead get away late and, after a ninth-inning rally came up short, went home unhappy with a 6-5 loss to the Dodgers.
Colin Poche, who had been pitching well but pitching often, was the culprit this time as the Rays blew a save for the 10th time in their last 26 games.
Taking over in the seventh inning with a 4-3 lead, Poche allowed three straight one-out hits — singles to Miguel Rojas and Mookie Betts, and a double to Freddie Freeman — that, combined with a wild pitch and a stolen base, helped the Dodgers go ahead 5-4.
“I thought Po’s stuff was really good,” manager Kevin Cash said. “He’s been worked pretty hard; I’ve worked him pretty hard. Appreciate him going out there. It’s a big moment right there. He’s been throwing the ball well for us, just a couple of good hitters just got him.
“ ... Mookie and Freddie, I mean, those are probably the last two guys you want to see coming up in that situation. And they put together good at-bats against him. But Colin’s in a good spot.”
Poche, pitching for the third straight day and fourth in five, said fatigue was not a factor, either physically or mentally.
“I feel good, but baseball is all about today, what happens today,” Poche said. “We’ve been on a good run. Me, personally, and as a team. I’ve been feeling good. But just (Saturday) wasn’t able to get it done.”
Miguel Vargas’ homer in the eighth off Trevor Kelley, who may be the next reliever shuttled out (with lefty Joe LaSorsa coming up for the first time), ended up being the difference, as the Rays rallied for a run in the ninth.
Taylor Walls slapped a one-out hit off lefty Caleb Ferguson and hustled it into a double. Jose Siri, who didn’t run hard on a groundout earlier, struck out, then slammed his bat to the ground and broke it over his knee. Yandy Diaz fouled off three pitches to work a walk.
Wander Franco singled in Walls. That brought up Harold Ramirez, who earlier hit the Rays’ 100th homer of the season (in Game 54; last year they got it in Game 111), but he grounded into a game-ending forceout.
“A lot of good at-bats,” Cash said. “Had the right guys up. ... Three guys (Diaz, Franco and Ramirez) that can really move the baseball, a lot of contact. We just came up short right at the end.”
The Rays reached the one-third mark of the season at 38-16, still the best record in the majors, though they are 9-8 in one-run games. They wrap up a season-high, 10-game homestand Sunday with an 11:35 a.m. matinee against the Dodgers.
They were in Saturday’s game because Glasnow, sidelined since a Feb. 27 left oblique strain, made a solid, if unspectacular, return in a matchup with Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw — a pairing that happened twice in the 2020 World Series.
Glasnow looked a lot like himself, clocking 98 mph with his fastball, getting hitters to chase his breaking ball (17 swings-and-misses), throwing 55 of 83 pitches for strikes. The Rays saw it at the end of last season, when he returned from August 2021 Tommy John elbow surgery to make two regular-season starts and another during their brief postseason.
“Good to have him back,” Cash said, noting he was looking only for strikes and consistency in the zone. “You saw the stuff early on, that it’s no different than what we saw last October. It’s pretty wipeout stuff. (He) picked up a bunch of strikeouts to a very good-hitting team.”
Glasnow, pitching in a game at the Trop for the first time since June 8, 2021 (and getting an ovation as he left the field from most of the crowd of 23,443), said he was pleased overall. He said he has a few things to work on (he threw across his body a few times and missed some locations) before his next outing, likely Friday in Boston.
“I felt good,” Glasnow said. “Threw my pitches for strikes. Wasn’t perfect, but definitely coming back for the first one, I’m happy with it.”
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