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There is a bright side for the Rays

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One of the great things about baseball is the number of games played in a regular season. One gut-punching, puke-inducing loss is just that; one loss.

It can be difficult at times to find the bright side or the silver lining, but here goes. Friday is another day. The same team that broke your hearts last night will be in the other dugout again tonight.

To be sure, Thursday night’s 10-7 debacle against the Detroit Tigers was bad enough to have players and managers hovering over the bathroom porcelain. To several in the clubhouse, the post-game spread of food had to be as unappealing as castor oil.

Taking a five-run lead into the ninth inning equals a victory 99.9 percent of the time. When the one-tenth of one percent happens, it’s a triple Maalox moment.

“That’s a frustrating loss,” lamented Rays’ Manager Kevin Cash afterward. “I don’t know if there has been one more frustrating this year.”

Roger that, Kevin. There have been several losses lately, but none like that.

Going into that fateful ninth inning the Rays had to be feeling better than they have the entire month of June. After enduring an agonizing 11-game losing streak, Tampa Bay took two of three from the hated Red Sox earlier this week.

Now they were three outs away from their first two-game winning streak in more than two weeks. Instead, the mauling of the Rays’ bullpen by the Tigers will not soon be forgotten by those who witnessed it.

Those involved need to get over it quickly. The nature of baseball provides that opportunity.

A hockey or basketball team may have two or three days to stew over a devastating loss. A football team has an entire week. Baseball provides the perfect opportunity to put games like Thursday’s in the rear view mirror.

Anything like Thursday’s crusher has not happened to the Rays in three years. Tampa Bay led the Los Angeles Dodgers 6-1 in the bottom of the eighth on August 9, 2013.

The Dodgers under manager Don Mattingly scored four runs off Fernando Rodney, a former Tigers’ closer, in the ninth to walk off with a 7-6 win. Tampa Bay would go on to be swept in that series. (Ironically, Mattingly and his Miami Marlins traded for Rodney on Thursday.)

The Rays would quickly regroup and proceed to win eight of ten games. That night was the last of seven walk off losses that year.

On the bright side, Joe Maddon’s Rays were on the winning side of 13 walk offs that year, including six down the stretch as the Rays would go on to make the playoffs.

So, look up Rays’ fans. The June swoon, where Tampa Bay went 11-17, can give way to brighter days.

The playoffs are not likely on the horizon, but some quality wins are ahead. That is the nature of baseball.

Today is the first day of the rest of the season.

Bob Sparks is President of Ramos and Sparks Group, a Tallahassee-based business and political consulting firm. During his career, he has directed media relations and managed events for professional baseball, served as chief spokesperson for the Republican Party of Florida as well as the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Attorney General of Florida. After serving as Executive Deputy Chief of Staff for Governor Charlie Crist, he returned to the private sector working with clients including the Republican National Committee and political candidates in Japan. He lives in Tallahassee with his wife, Sue and can be reached at Bob@ramos-sparks.com.

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