Rockies bullpen crumbles in third straight game, Colorado loses 6-5 to Rays

For the second straight night, the Rockies had the Rays right where they wanted them — until they didn’t.

Tampa Bay scored two runs off Justin Lawrence in the ninth to tie the game, then Brandon Lowe singled home the winning run off Brent Suter in the 10th to lift the Rays to a 6-5 comeback victory over the Rockies.

The bullpen crumbling in crunch time came a day after Colorado gave up nine runs in the eighth inning in the opening game of the series at Tropicana Field en route to a 12-4 loss.

Suter took the defeat in both games, and going back to Sunday’s homestand finale against the White Sox, the bullpen’s blown three games in a row in ugly fashion. In that 10-5 defeat in LoDo, Chicago plated seven runs in the eighth to uncork a comeback.

“These are tough ones,” manager Bud Black told reporters. “These will test you, for sure. Nobody wants to contribute more than bullpen guys when the game is close. They’re feeling it hard right now. … These are gut-wrenchers.”

Tampa Bay right-hander Aaron Civale and Colorado southpaw Austin Gomber were locked in a pitcher’s duel early in the game, before Lawrence’s seventh blown save in 17 tries this year. The lone blemishes against each through the first five frames were a Randy Arozarena solo homer off Gomber in the third, Elias Diaz’s solo shot off Civale in the fifth and then Yandy Diaz’s RBI single off Gomber to give the Rays the lead back in the bottom of that inning.

Colorado finally broke through against Civale, a slow-thrower who relies on fastball cut and offspeed deception, in the sixth.

Charlie Blackmon led off that inning by getting hit, then Ezequiel Tovar’s single chased Civale. A few batters later, Diaz dropped the hammer again, with a two-RBI single that swung the lead to the Rockies, 3-2. Diaz continues to be a silver lining in a lost season for Colorado (48-78).

“He’s an all-star and the all-star MVP who’s been doing his part, for sure,” Black said.

Colorado wasn’t done in that frame. With the bases loaded against Andrew Kittredge, Elehuris Montero got plunked to plate a run and then Doyle’s single scored another to make it 5-2. But Black felt the Rockies left some runs on the table, especially considering bases-loaded Ks by Brendan Rodgers and Nolan Jones with less than two outs, and Jurickson Profar getting hosed at the plate to end the frame.

“We didn’t deliver a couple more hits to really stretch the lead like we could’ve,” Black said.

The Rays got one run back via Isaac Paredes’ leadoff homer in the bottom of the sixth, but Gomber settled back in to record a quality start, leaving with a 5-3 lead.

Colorado’s bullpen took the torch from there and appeared to be marching toward the finish line when right-hander Jake Bird worked around a leadoff walk in the seventh and then set the Rays down in order in eighth.

But Lawrence couldn’t hold the lead in the ninth as an infield single and a walk came back to haunt him. Yandy Diaz dinged him for a one-out, two-RBI single to tie the game before Lowe’s winning stroke off Suter in the extra frame.

“This is a learning experience for Justin, who is establishing himself as a major-league, back-end reliever,” Black said. “Bird did a nice job, which a positive from tonight.”

Thursday’s pitching matchup

Rockies RHP Peter Lambert (3-4, 5.02 ERA) at Rays TBA

11:10 a.m. Thursday, Tropicana Field

TV: AT&T SportsNet

Radio: 850 AM/94.1 FM

While Tampa Bay’s starter is to be announced, Lambert is looking to keep rolling after his seven-inning, one-run gem against the White Sox last Friday. It was the deepest Lambert’s pitched into a game since his MLB debut at Wrigley Field in 2019, and his command and control are both coming into form, as Lambert’s only walked two batters over his last two starts. If Lambert strings together a few more quality starts, he’ll no doubt cement a spot in the Rockies’ rotation heading into next spring training.

Pitching probables

Friday: Rockies LHP Kyle Freeland (5-13, 5.02) at Orioles RHP Kyle Gibson (12-7, 4.97), 5:05 p.m., ATTRM

Saturday: Rockies RHP Chris Flexen (1-1, 7.18) at Orioles LHP Cole Irvin (1-3, 4.66), 5:05 p.m., ATTRM

Sunday: Rockies LHP Ty Blach (1-1, 4.39) at Orioles RHP Kyle Bradish (8-6, 3.03), 11:35 a.m., ATTRM

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