ST. PETERSBURG — From the moment the baseball left his hand, Kirby Yates knew it was a mistake. He wanted to throw a fastball up to Victor Martinez with the bases loaded in the seventh inning Wednesday, and Yates didn't quite get the ball up high enough in the strike zone.
From the moment the ball left Yates' hand, Rays manager Joe Maddon knew it was a mistake. He'd rather Yates throw his curveball and not challenge Martinez with a high fastball.
“Hindsight is 50/50,” Yates said. “It always is. It's all about execution. If I execute that pitch where I want to throw it and he still hits it out, I could say that. Bottom line is, I didn't execute.”
Martinez jumped on the pitch and drove it into the right-field seats for a grand slam that finished the scoring in the Tigers' 6-0 win against the Rays in front of 13,575 fans at Tropicana Field.
Hindsight being 20/20, or perhaps 50/50, it didn't really matter much, not with the way Rick Porcello pitched for the Tigers and the way things have been going for the Rays.
Porcello pitched his third complete-game shutout of the year, a three-hitter in which he retired 20 straight at one point.
The Rays lost for the fourth time since reaching .500 on Friday night. They are eight games behind the final American League wild-card spot and looking a little like they did in the early part of this season, when nothing seemed to go right.
“It's getting to that time of year, close to September when you can't lose too many games in a row when you're trying to make a comeback,” losing pitcher Jake Odorizzi said.
Now they face former teammate David Price this afternoon in the series finale in what should be an emotional day, hoping not to get swept.
“We got (Alex) Cobb (pitching), and I like that, too,” Maddon said. “He's no day at the beach for them. I'm eager to see it play out.”
How it played out Wednesday was like this: Odorizzi, who lost for the second time in eight starts, allowed a pair of two-out hits in the first that produced the first Tigers run. He allowed a pair of two-out hits in the seventh that produced the second run. Yates came in, loaded the bases and left a 1-2 fastball up to Martinez — and Martinez did not miss.
“Just sound, location, everything. The way he reacted. I knew he hit it. I knew it was gone,” Yates said. “As soon as it left my hand I knew it.”
All Martinez's 24th homer did was make the final score lopsided.
Really, the game was over before then.
“Porcello was fantastic,” Odorizzi said. “He pitched a (heck) of a game.”
The Rays reached Porcello for seven runs on 11 hits on July 6 when they faced him in Detroit.
“Incredibly different,” Maddon said. “Total 180.”
If not for an opposite-field double down the left-field line with one out in the first inning by Ben Zobrist, Porcello would have carried a perfect game deep into the game, and Rays fans know how those usually turn out.
“From the side, it looked like a Wiffle ball, like playing in your backyard,” Maddon said. “It was doing all kinds of weird things.”
“You literally can't ask for anything more,” Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said.
Still, the Rays would have only been down a run had Odorizzi been able to close out the seventh. He didn't, allowing a two-out double to Rajai Davis on an 0-2 pitch and an RBI single to Ian Kinsler.
“I've struck out many people on an 0-2 pitch up and away, and I don't think I should go away from my strengths,” Odorizzi said.
And, even down 2-0, the Rays were still in the game if they could have found a way to crack Porcello.
Then came the deciding fastball.
“I really like (Yates') breaking ball, and definitely Victor was sitting on that pitch and he didn't miss,” Maddon said. “I don't second-guess that kind of stuff. That's just something he needs to be able to process on the run in the future, and he will.”