ST. PETERSBURG -- One day after Rafael Soriano blew his first save since July 20, Rays manager Joe Maddon reaffirmed his conviction to use his All-Star closer at any crucial point, even if Soriano was ailing.
Who could blame him? With 42 of 45 saves converted -- one shy of a club record -- and a consecutive saves streak of 19, the Rays know the game is all but won when they turn to Mr. Dependable.
"Regardless of whether he had a cold or not, or whatever was going on, I'd still rather have him out there than most anybody else," Maddon said with a smile. "I'd take my chances."
Soriano confessed to not sleeping well Saturday night and not feeling great Sunday, either, but the 30-year-old workhorse also understood the importance of his role down the stretch and decided to tough it out. Maddon not only appreciated the effort but commended the performance, which resulted in a two-run walk-off homer for Toronto's Adam Lind and a 5-4 loss.
"We're building that game for that purpose of him pitching at that moment, and I'll take him less than 100 percent vs. a lot of guys," he added.
True to form, Soriano refused to make excuses afterward and said prior to Tampa Bay's series opener with rival New York that he felt fine and was "ready to go."
It was decidedly a spot of pregame good news. The Rays entered Monday trailing the Yankees by a half-game in the division, and Soriano has three saves, a hold, a win and a 1.98 ERA against the American League East foes.