ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays have lost a Major League-high 13 games in which they have surrendered a lead. Contributing to that troubling statistic has been the team's once-stellar bullpen, and in particular, Jake McGee, who, in his last eight appearances, has allowed 10 runs on 14 hits in 6 2/3 innings. What's been hard to figure out about those numbers has been the fact he's had good stuff, and the way he threw the ball last season.
"The thing about Jake right now, he's been one of the more unlucky pitchers that I've had in a while as a bullpen guy," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "The one pitch I'd like to see him have back was the home run to [Colby] Rasmus. That was just a nothing cutter. But for the most part, he's had a lot of bad luck balls that have fallen into play.
"What Jake needs now is support, from me and from us. Jake McGee is one of the best left-handed relievers in the American League, maybe in all of baseball now. His confidence is down. He's been shaken a bit. But that's not when you pile on. That's when you help and support."
McGee went 5-2 with a 1.95 ERA in 69 appearances last season. Included in those numbers was the eye-opening stat that he held right-handers to a .098 batting average.
"Every right-hander he faced knew he was going to see a fastball," Maddon said. "It's a matter of throwing the pitch where you want to. Once he gets back to that point with confidence, he'll have the same results.
"He'll still throw 95 to 97 [mph] with good rise. The other pitch that he's trying to throw -- he's been working on it, I'd really like him to use that in a very minimal sense and not try to get outs with it. Jake's going to be just fine. And I said it yesterday and I'll say it again today. At the end of the season, this will be one of the best bullpens in the American League and maybe the best."
Jennings feels better after meeting with Happ
ST. PETERSBURG -- In the aftermath of hitting a line drive off the left side of Toronto left-hander J.A. Happ's head, a distraught Desmond Jennings chose not to talk to reporters Tuesday night after the game.
The Rays center fielder broke his silence before Wednesday night's game, describing the play in his soft voice.
"I had the angle, when I hit it, I saw the direction it was going and it was something that you just don't want to see or you don't want to happen to anybody," Jennings said. "I didn't know what to think. I mean, I saw it happen and I knew something was wrong. I saw the direction that the ball was going and I didn't know where it hit him at first. I just knew it was somewhere above the shoulder. I mean, it was tough to see. You never want to see anything like that happen to anybody."
Happ appeared to be well on his way to a full recovery and showed up at the ballpark on Wednesday. That allowed Jennings to meet with the Blue Jays left-hander, whom he did not know before their fateful encounter.
"I talked to him today and he told me that everything was OK and that everything was doing better," Jennings said. "He was talking to me like normal. Like he could get out there and go today. That's always good to see."
Happ spoke of their meeting.
"He just wished me the best and hoped for a quick recovery," Happ said. "Obviously something like that, it's never intentional. I let him know that I knew that and I did appreciate him coming over. It's a scary thing on his end, too, I'm sure, so I did appreciate that."
Jennings drive off Happ's head ricocheted into the right-field corner. Two runners scored as a visibly troubled Jennings advanced to third with a triple, while keeping an eye on Happ, who was sprawled on the mound.
An 11-minute delay ensued while Happ was being tended to on the field. The left-hander was strapped to a stretcher and taken to a local hospital for treatment.
"You see it happen, you never know what the outcome could be," Jennings said. "You don't know where the ball hit him. You just see the guy laid out there like that. It's scary no matter who he is, no matter who he plays for."
Jennings felt relieved after being informed Wednesday morning that Happ was doing much better.
"That let me breathe a little bit," Jennings said. "But you still don't know until you see him face to face exactly how he's doing."
Jennings seemed to be at peace with the situation and did not feel as though thoughts of what happened would affect his play.
"You know in baseball, things happen," Jennings said. "I didn't try to hit the ball and hit him with it. I talked to him, he seems to be doing OK. I'll move on from here. [I] wish him a speedy recovery."
Maddon ejected for second straight night
ST. PETERSBURG -- Rays manager Joe Maddon was ejected from Wednesday night's game against the Blue Jays at Tropicana Field.
In doing so, Maddon only managed five of the 8 1/2 innings played in the game that gave him his 600th win as skipper of the Rays.
With Jamey Wright beginning his first inning of relief in the sixth, Toronto's Maicer Izturis hit a ground ball to first baseman James Loney for what appeared to be the first out of the inning. Much to Maddon's chagrin, the ball was ruled foul based on the premise that it had struck Izturis on the foot -- which replays showed it clearly did not. The call prompted Maddon to bark at home-plate umpire Scott Barry from the dugout, which earned him an ejection. Once ejected, Maddon went onto the field to get his money's worth before he retired to the clubhouse for the rest of the evening.
On Tuesday night, Maddon was ejected for arguing a call at home plate made by Marty Foster. Wednesday night's dismissal was his third of the season and 30th as manager of the Rays. He also earned the dubious distinction of being the only manager in team history to be ejected from consecutive games and leads the Major Leagues for most ejections this season.
"I have to defend myself," Maddon said. "They have all been warranted. The thing tonight, I just can't permit that. Beyond the out, it's just a matter of we're low in the bullpen. We only have so many pitchers available. And I'm counting pitches. I'm counting every pitch that is thrown. So you know that permitting [Izturis] to come back into the box and continuing that at-bat, there's a threat of a really long inning going on versus Jamey."
Maddon noted that Barry was "a really good umpire."
"My issue with him is that, 'You saw it. You knew what the right call was and you chose to not argue with the other guy [first-base umpire Tim Welke] because he is the crew chief,'" Maddon said.
The Rays have had several critical calls go against them this season, which helped shape Maddon's perspective.
"You get to that point where you just can't permit it anymore," Maddon said. "I think we've been tolerant. I think we've handled this really well, but there's a line to be drawn."
He was asked if his fighting back against umpires could backfire by giving him a reputation as a complainer.
"Only if it wasn't warranted we would get the reputation," Maddon said. "I think if it's warranted, you have to. I'd rather get a bad reputation arguing warranted moments as opposed to getting a horrible reputation among my players. That is much more important to me."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.