Tampa Bay Rays
Rays finish disastrous trip with loss to Yankees
NEW YORK - After a loss Saturday at Yankee Stadium, the Tampa Bay Rays talked about the importance of Sunday's game and the need to win in order to take the series against and gain some ground in the race for the division title. After four innings Sunday, the Rays trailed by five, had allowed four stolen bases, thrown a wild pitch, committed two errors, allowed a three-run homer, walked the No. 9 hitter to ignite a five-run inning and lost a fly ball in the sun. Not exactly the way to seize such a big moment. Sure, they staged a minor rally, which allowed them to lose by the now standard two runs, which they did, 6-4 to the first-place New York Yankees.The Rays lost five of six games on the trip through the top of the AL East and trail the Yankees by five games. Having blown an opportunity to, if not overtake either the Yankees or the Orioles or both, then keep pace with them, the Rays headed home focused on perhaps their remaining hope for a playoff spot: The newly created second wild card. "If it wasn't for that I don't think we'd have much of a shot right now," losing pitcher Matt Moore said. "It'd be pretty tough to come back, so obviously that's where we're aiming." Rays manager Joe Maddon talked last week about how much he liked the additional wild card team. He upgraded those feelings after Sunday's loss. "I love it. Absolutely love it," Maddon said. "I think it's the greatest idea ever. It's the best idea since lights for night baseball." The Rays are four games out of the second wild-card spot with 16 games to play. The trouble is the Angels and Tigers also are in the hunt, which means the Rays have to start winning and hope the other teams start losing. That will be a challenge with the way they are hitting down the stretch. It will be even harder if the starting pitching falters, which it did Sunday when Moore turned in the shortest outing of his career for the second time during the road trip. The rookie, pitching in the Bronx for the second time since he struck out 11 in five innings last September during his first big-league start, struck out four in two hitless innings before unraveling after walking No. 9 hitter Eduardo Nunez to begin the third inning. The Yankees scored five runs with the big blow being a three-run homer by Russell Martin. "He was real good and then the at-bat to Nunez kind of opened up the floodgate," Maddon said. "All of a sudden he lost his command and lost a little bit of his confidence with the command, unable to control the running game, put a lot of pressure on us defensively and just stopped pitching like he had in the first two innings." Moore, who lasted four innings in a loss at Baltimore to begin the trip, lasted only three Sunday. "It's just one of those unexplainable youthful moments right there for me, because his stuff was really good in the beginning of the game," Maddon said. Moore, who lost his fourth straight start, said being a rookie had nothing to do with what went wrong. "I would never use that as an excuse," he said. "I feel like I'm a major league pitcher. I can get hitters out. It just wasn't a very good third inning. I wasn't able to get those pitches, especially in those put-away counts to shut the inning down." Maddon joked that a 1-5 road trip beats an 0-6 road trip, but this could prove to be the road trip that ruins the season. "We didn't play very well, we didn't swing the bats very well," Evan Longoria said. "We've been leaning on our pitching the whole year and they can't be to blame. They can't be the blame for anything. We should be able to score five to six runs here and there and pick them up. "We've got to find a way. I don't think by any means that we're in a good spot. We've put ourselves in this spot. We just have to go home and have a good homestand."