ST. PETERSBURG — It was a sign of the times that went unheeded. Before Tuesday night's game, Rays shortstop Yunel Escobar walked around the clubhouse wearing a placard around his neck that read: “We Need to Win.” Then Tampa Bay went out and dropped a 5-4 decision to the lowly Seattle Mariners behind ineffective pitching and some uninspired defense. Before an announced Tropicana Field crowd of 13,294, Chris Archer yielded a pair of solo home runs to rookie leadoff hitter Brad Miller as Tampa Bay suffered its sixth consecutive loss, dropping four games behind first-place Boston in the AL East.
“Nobody likes a six-game losing streak,” said Rays manager Joe Maddon, “but it happens. We have not been sharp in the last week. It's how you work through this moment that differentiates you from other clubs.” Rays leadoff batter Ben Zobrist matched Miller with two home runs of his own, including a two-run shot in the fifth that forged a 4-4 tie. Seattle went back ahead for good in the sixth. Justin Smoak's leadoff single ended Archer's evening and Dustin Ackley greeted new Rays reliever Wesley Wright with a triple that carried over the head of rookie Wil Myers and caromed off the base of the center-field wall. Myers, who normally plays right field, is filling in for the injured Desmond Jennings, a speedster who might have been able to catch up to Ackley's long drive. Zobrist led off the bottom of the first with a homer off Erasmo Ramirez, who improved to 4-0 despite allowing four runs in 51/3 innings. James Loney's RBI single later in the inning put Tampa Bay ahead 2-1. The Mariners (55-63) strung together four consecutive two-out hits in the fourth en route to a 3-2 lead. Raul Ibanez singled and Tampa Bay (66-51) got a break when Michael Morse's liner into the right-field corner bounced into the stands for a ground-rule double. The Rays used a defensive shift against left-handed batter Justin Smoak, who grounded a two-run single between Escobar and second baseman Zobrist, who failed to keep the ball from reaching the outfield. “I'm making good pitches, but sometimes, good isn't enough,” Archer said. Miller, who led off the game with his third home run of the season, tagged Archer again leading off the fifth to put Seattle ahead 4-2 before the Rays rallied in the bottom of the inning. Kelly Johnson singled and Zobrist deposited the next pitch into the right-field seats, marking only the third time in major-league history that the leadoff hitters for both clubs each hit multiple home runs in the same game. In Archer's previous start, he was lifted in the second inning at Arizona with forearm tightness. On Tuesday, he threw 91 pitches, 61 for strikes, in five-plus innings, yielding nine hits and five runs. “Archie wasn't as sharp as he normally is,” Maddon said. “Sometimes, it goes in the wrong direction. It's how you handle the moment that makes you different. Don't point any fingers — just play the game.” Archer (6-5) was followed by Wright, Joel Peralta, Jake McGee and Fernando Rodney as the Mariners lashed two doubles, a triple and two homers in their 12-hit attack. Seattle's fourth pitcher of the night, Danny Farquhar, picked up his fifth save by retiring the side in order in the ninth, striking out Zobrist (95 mph fastball) and Matt Joyce (76 mph curve), both looking, before Evan Longoria flied out to center. The Rays had won 14 of 17 games at the Trop since June 24. They arrived back home at 5:15 a.m. Monday from Los Angeles and fell to 1-10 following an off day this season, including eight setbacks in a row. During their six-game tailspin, the Rays are hitting .204 and their pitchers are saddled with a 6.93 ERA. They have lost eight of their last 10 games after reeling off a 19-3 spurt that saw the Rays pass Boston in the standings.