ST. PETERSBURG — This was a homestand only a mother could love.
After it ended — mercifully — the Rays spent late Sunday afternoon preparing for the latest in Joe Maddon’s themed road trips. In a noiseless clubhouse, players donned their psychedelic headbands, tie-dyed T-shirts, op-art pants and 1969-style Afro wigs.
It seemed so out of place.
This wasn’t Woodstock.
The mood was dumbstruck.
Still, Maddon said he wasn’t flustered after a 6-5 loss against the Cleveland Indians before a Mother’s Day crowd of 23,679 fans at Tropicana Field.
“This is no time to get all panicky,’’ Maddon said. “This is baseball. If you get into it (with negative feelings), it will eat you alive. If you do not, it will come back to you.’’
Glum-faced third baseman Evan Longoria conveyed different emotions.
“I’d be lying to you if I said I wasn’t a little bit stressed out,’’ Longoria said. “I don’t think we’re playing bad games. I think we’re playing the game the right way. We’re just getting beat. The last couple of games, it has been too little, too late.
“Offensively, we’re not doing what we’re capable of. The pitching staff will tell you they’re not throwing the ball the way they should. We’re not playing a winning caliber of baseball. We’re just not.’’
After a 1-5 home performance against the Indians and Baltimore Orioles, the Rays headed cross country to begin a seven-game road trip tonight against the Seattle Mariners and right-hander Felix Hernandez, who tossed a perfect game against Tampa Bay in 2012.
For the Rays, the bigger priority is fixing their own pitching staff.
Right-hander Chris Archer has gone five innings or fewer in three consecutive starts for the first time in his young career. Archer was lifted after surrendering a two-strike home run to Cleveland’s Yan Gomes, who led off the sixth.
That came after the Indians roared ahead 3-1 in the second, collecting a two-out, two-run double from Michael Bourn on a 1-and-2 offering from Archer.
“I’ve been working hard my whole career to be consistent,’’ Archer said. “I’m having a tough stretch of games right now, but it’s not going to derail the effort I’ve put in.
“The worst part is probably letting your teammates down. But as soon as the game is over, they remind you that you’re not letting them down, as long as you’re putting in your best effort. I have full conviction that if that’s what I do, then it’s going to turn for me. It’s all temporary.’’
Maddon said Archer must turn around his approach, though.
“It’s (Archer’s) inability to make the pitch when he needed to, that 1-and-2 pitch to Bourn that turned into a double down the right-field line and scored two points with two outs,’’ Maddon said. “The homer by Gomes, another two-strike at-bat. That can’t happen with his kind of stuff.
“You don’t want the ball being driven to the wall in those situations. It comes down to execution more than anything else. He just has to put people away. That’s what he has to overcome.’’
Meanwhile, the Rays’ offense must collect more timely hits and generate more positive results before the late innings.
Trailing 6-2, the Rays climbed back in with a three-run eighth inning. Yunel Escobar’s one-out, bases-loaded sacrifice fly made it a one-run game. But with the tying run at third base, pinch-hitter Ryan Hanigan struck out swinging against Indians reliever Cody Allen.
In the ninth, facing Bryan Shaw, the Rays went down meekly with the 1-2-3 batters, twice grounding out and flying out to medium right field.
“We had the right guys up late,’’ Maddon said. “We just didn’t get the hits. It’s unusual to not pull one or two of those out of the fire. We’re used to doing that.
“We’re close. We’re one pitch away, one hit away.’’
After a feel-good tour through Fenway Park and Yankee Stadium, the Rays lost ground at home. At this point, even in one-run games, those aren’t acceptable results.
“We’re close,’’ Longoria said. “But obviously, we’re not close enough.’’