OAKLAND, Calif. — They remain a chipper bunch during this recent slide down the standings but the frustration of wasted at-bats and missed scoring opportunities and the losing, of course the losing, crept into their game Saturday night.
Both Ben Zobrist and Evan Longoria tossed their bats in disgust and/or anger after recording outs during the eighth inning, Zobrist with a fly ball to right field and Longoria with a strikeout that left the tying run at second base.
Longoria slammed his helmet to the ground for good measure.
The Rays lost 2-1 to the A’s at the Oakland Coliseum after a ninth inning rally stalled.
The loss dropped the Rays to 1 ½ games behind the A’s in the Wild Card standings and 4 ½ back of the first place Red Sox in the American League East.
The culprit again was the offense, or lack of it. The Rays left nine runners on base, including two in the ninth. They were 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position. They are a combined 4-for-19 with 17 runners left on base during the first two games of this 10-game, three-city trip to the West Coast.
“We have to offensively stir it up a little bit more somehow,” manager Joe Maddon said. “Another really interesting game, and we have to figure out how to win these things.”
The Rays have dropped six of their last seven, four by one run and another by two runs.
A hit here, a hit there could make all the difference.
“There’s no doubt I’m frustrated,” Longoria said. “I will just speak for myself. I’m frustrated. I had a good week and a half a couple of weeks back and it just seems like I haven’t been able to put it all together for a good amount of time. I don’t know what it is. I wish I could figure it out. I’m doing the same things. I’m working the same way. For whatever reason it’s eluded me, and it seems to be that way for the rest of the guys offensively.”
The weak offense ruined Alex Cobb’s best start since returning from the disabled list. The right-hander allowed just two runs on five hits in eight innings to record his first complete game of the season.
Cobb was done in by a pair of long balls – the one former Ray Stephen Vogt hit off the right field wall for a leadoff triple in the sixth inning and a homer to right by Coco Crisp in the eighth inning that gave former Rays closer Grant Balfour an extra run to work with.
Crisp followed Vogt’s hit with a single through the middle to score Vogt and give the A’s a 1-0 lead.
“Cobb was fantastic, man. He was really, really good,” Maddon said. “You knew when Crisp hit that home run it was going to be a definite problem.”
That’s because the Rays offense just can’t seem to come up that big hit.
“That’s been the mantra right there, baby, we haven’t hit enough,” Maddon said. “We’ve pitched well, caught it, just a lack of hitting. The offense really needs to pick up a bit.”
Ironically the Rays ninth inning run was produced by a pair of struggling hitters – Wil Myers and Desmond Jennings.
Myers started the rally with a one-out double to right field to snap an 0-for-22 stretch. Jennings drove Myers home with a two-out single for only his fifth hit since returning from the disabled list Aug. 19. It was the first hit of the night for Jennings, who was dropped to the No. 9 spot in the order. Jennings was hitless in his first three at-bats, stranding a runner at second in each.
The A’s caught a break in the ninth inning when, with Myers on second and James Loney on first, Balfour bounced a pitch that got past Vogt but hit the leg of home plate umpire Manny Gonzalez. Myers easily advanced to third, but Loney thought better of running to second when he saw the ball did not bounce too far away from Vogt.
Had Loney been on second base he might have been able to score on Jennings’s RBI hit.
The Rays finished August at 11-15, their first losing record in August since 2006. Their 89 runs scored during the month made it the lowest scoring August in club history.
Now comes September, where the Rays usually dial it up a notch.
Longoria said they have no choice.
“It’s tough to say it’s (going to turn) the other way, but the way it’s been we haven’t been coming through,” Longoria said. “It simply can’t happen or else we’re going to be going home at the end of September. That’s the bottom line. I’ll do everything I can do work-ethic-wise trying to prepare myself as well as I can for the game so I don’t have to go home early and look at myself in the mirror and say I didn’t do enough, I could have done more to help the team and better myself.”