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Grant Balfour savages Rays fans for booing him after blown save

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The Tampa Bay Rays have stumbled mightily out of the gates this season, easily falling well short of expectations. A handful of games past the quarter-pole of the season, the Rays find themselves sitting at 20-28 and six games back of the AL East-leading Toronto Blue Jays.

While all hope is not lost — especially for the Rays — a team historically capable of going on torrid hot streaks to work themselves back into playoff contention, it has been a brutal start, even with manager Joe Maddon’s unconventional attempts at motivating the team.

Of a particularly surprising note is how the team has struggled at home, where the team traditionally excels. The Rays went 51-30 at home last season in the friendly confines of Tropicana Field, but are only 9-14 thus far this season.

Not playing winning baseball at home has started to rankle the team’s loyal fans, so much so that boos have been heard echoing around the archaic ballpark at times.

The boo birds were out in full force on Thursday night and the object of their collective derision was reliever Grant Balfour. With the Rays holding on to a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the 9th against the Oakland Athletics, Balfour surrendered an RBI double to Yoenis Cespedes that tied the score at one apiece.

And the boos reigned down upon the closer for his failure to shut the gate. And this didn’t sit well with Balfour, in his second stint with the team, as the surly reliever savaged the fans who lustily booed him, even though the Rays came back to win 5-2 in 11 innings.

“The fans can boo me and all that [stuff], but that’s fine,” Balfour said following the game, via ESPN.com. “It’s not going to help me out. It’s not going to help the team do anything out there when you do that [stuff]. The feeling is, the team’s behind you and everybody’s behind you — the crowd, the whole nine yards. Things are going to go right.

“But when you start pulling that [stuff], it’s not a good vibe. The team’s pulling for the team, so the fans got to be pulling for the team. Everybody’s got to be pulling for the team. You can’t be back and forth like that. That [stuff] doesn’t work. So I’ll just walk away positive from it. It’s a good win. A much-needed win.”

It’s reasonable to assume that “[stuff]” is ESPN.com News Services’ code for a far less family-friendly term, right? Yeah.

Balfour, despite notching eight saves on the season, hasn’t been at his best. Thursday’s blown save was his second of the season, and in 18.1 innings pitched, he has surrendered 12 earned runs for a 5.89 ERA. He also has only 15 strikeouts to 18 walks, perhaps fitting for a pitcher with the name “Balfour” but not consistent stat line for a shutdown closer or his track record.

“[Stuff] happens. I’m not going to sit here and cry about it,” Balfour said. “I would have liked to have closed it out. It would have been easier to get a 1-2-3 [inning].”

Again with the “[stuff]” stuff. Clearly, Balfour ain’t happy with the way things are doing. And that’s the straight poop.

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