Rays keep stumbling through stretch

Rays keep stumbling through stretch
September 11, 2013, 9:45 am
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Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher David Price (14) reacts as he talks with pitching coach Jim Hickey (48) in the dugout against the Baltimore Orioles during opening day at Tropicana Field.

(Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)

Though their drive toward a playoff berth was stalled by a loss on Tuesday, the Orioles continue to be right on the tail of the Rays, who hold the second American League wild-card spot. Tampa Bay finds itself just 1 ½ games in front of the O’s and Indians, and that’s because of the Rays’ tailspin.

After the games of Aug. 24, the Rays were inches ahead of the Red Sox for first place in the AL East. But since then, Boston has stepped it up, going 13-3. Tampa Bay, on the other hand, has stepped back with a 4-12 record, worst in the majors over that stretch.

After Tuesday’s 2-0 loss to the Red Sox, the Rays have scored a total of 41 runs — a little more than 2.5 per game — in the 16-game slide. Over those games, they are hitting .179 with runners in scoring position.

With that kind of ineffective offense, Tampa Bay ends up wasting the sort of pitching it got Tuesday. Starter David Price went eight innings and struck out nine and walked none. But giving up the two runs was too much for the Rays to overcome.

"Dave was outstanding," manager Joe Maddon said, as reported by mlb.com. "I thought he was great. He could not have done anything more."

It didn’t help that center fielder Desmond Jennings couldn’t track down Mike Napoli’s long drive that went for a double in the fifth, leading to the mini-rally for Boston’s two runs.

"I just kept going to the wall," Jennings said. "I reached out to get it and I didn't reach out high enough. It's a play that should've been made."

Speaking of his recent troubles in the outfield, but also summing up the Rays’ struggles, Jennings said: "I don't know what it is actually. It's a bad time to be playing bad."

The Orioles go to St. Petersburg, Fla., for a four-game series starting next Friday.