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Thursday, Apr 26, 2018
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Tampa Bay Rays

Rays still hoping to hit stride

SEATTLE — There was a time this season when the Tampa Bay Rays were a good baseball team, when they pitched well, played solid defense and had what manager Joe Maddon called a “swarming offense” that scored runs in bunches and put teams away.

That team hasn’t been seen lately.

Actually, that team went away when the Rays made their first trip out west in early August and it showed up again when the Los Angeles Angels reached Tropicana Field on Aug. 27.

The Rays lost three of their next 12 games before Saturday’s game against the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field and saw their lead in the wild-card standings dip under two games.

After going 0-5 during their interleague trip against the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Rays have gone 2-6 during the first eight games of this 10-game trip through Oakland, Anaheim and Seattle.

“We’ve not been playing like we normally do since we’ve come out west,” Maddon said before Saturday’s game. “We just have not. This has been our worst baseball of the year.

“Even the Diamondback, Dodgers series have not been good. And even the Angels, A’s and (Mariners) have not been good. For whatever reason, we have not adapted well.”

For the most part, the Rays have pitched well on this trip, compiling a 3.88 ERA through the first eight games. The offense, though, has disappeared, producing only 23 runs.

The Rays have had their chances but are 13-for-82 with runners in scoring position. They’ve had games of 1-for-11, 1-for-10, 1-for-9, 0-for-8, 1-for-7 and 3-for-20. They managed to score seven runs the night they were 3-for-20 with runners in scoring position.

“Getting guys on base has not been our problem. Scoring them has,” Maddon said. “It’s like a bad red-zone offense, we just can’t punch it through. We’re inside the 20 (yard line) all the time and we get the three points once in a while.”

In the eighth inning of Friday’s 6-4 loss, the Rays had a single, a double and three walks and scored once. A big moment in the inning was when Sean Rodriguez, running for James Loney, was picked off second base for the first out.

“That game right there, a lot of things negative can happen,” Maddon said. “You could strike out with the bases loaded, you could make a throwing error, you can hang a slider, you can do a lot of different things, but you can’t get picked off of second. That’s the only thing that bothered me about all of that. People make errors. You swing at pitches in the dirt ... but the one part of that game that really upset me was that, and I’m just being honest, because there was no play on.”

In the bottom of the inning, Desmond Jennings dropped a fly ball in deep left-center field that put the eventual winning run on base. It was the third error for Jennings since he came off the disabled list Aug. 19. Then Wil Myers dove but couldn’t catch a double by Justin Smoak that scored two runs to snap the 4-4 tie.

When asked Saturday afternoon to describe his team’s mental state, Maddon said, “It’s just a little bit unsure of themselves. Unsure of ourselves. We’re making mistakes that we normally don’t make. I don’t want to say routine-routine, but they’re pretty basic things that we normally do well late in a ball game, and we just got get back to not making those mistakes.

“Already this year, we’ve lost a lot of games late that we’ve not normally lost in the past. I keep saying, at some point we got to stop doing that, and we really do. It’s there for us to take. There’s a lot of time to start playing our best baseball of the year, which I am anticipating we do. We’ve played badly. We’ve played really well this year. Right now, we’re normally a good August, September team. We’re not showing up yet.”

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