ST. PETERSBURG - You can sum up the Tampa Bay Rays fortunes during the three games this week against the Boston Red Sox with these four words: They had their chances.
A hit here, a hit there, and the Rays could have won all three.
Instead, the Rays left runners on base, runners in scoring position and dropped two of three to the first place Red Sox after Wednesday's 2-1 loss in front of 15,091 at Tropicana Field.
"They've beaten us in the close game," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "Early on we weren't hitting but we were pitching well. And then we were hitting well and they out-scored us. They just got us. They're veteranship is showing now, but it's a long season. I have a lot of faith in our guys, and I believe as we progress we'll be able to match, but for right now they got us."
The Rays are 2-7 against the Red Sox this season and now trail the first-place Red Sox by five games.
The Rays, who entered the game with an American League-leading .304 batting average with runners in scoring position, are hitting an incredible .092 with RISP in their seven losses against the Red Sox this season after going 0-for-7 Wednesday. They left a runner at third base nine times in the series.
"We've not been very good with that," Maddon said. "Why? I don't have a very good reason for that."
The Rays left the bases-loaded in the third inning, left a runner at third base in the third inning, and stranded runners at second in the fifth, eighth and ninth innings.
"We've just got to get guys in like we've been doing," Kelly Johnson said. "But that's stuff is all cyclical. Our time will come."
Evan Longoria, who proved the Rays only run with this third home run in as many nights, grounded into a double play in the third inning with runners at first and second and no out.
"He doesn't walk on water, but he's pretty close," Maddon said. "It's not going to happen all the time. You have to understand that. There's expectations and then there's unrealistic expectations. I think he's met expectations really well."
Part of the Rays problem Wednesday was Red Sox starter Alfredo Aceves, who was recalled earlier in the day to make the start and is now 3-1 against Tampa Bay. Rays hitters are batting .132 against Aceves.
"We can't hit that guy," Maddon said.
Rays rookie Chris Archer, making his third start of the year, had a rough outing. He lasted four innings after throwing 103 pitches. He allowed both runs, and those scored on Daniel Nava's two-out home run in the third inning that ended a 10-pitch at-bat. It was the first hit Archer allowed on a slider all season.
"Wild, shotgun scattered," Maddon said about Archer's performance. "He didn't have that normal nice, calm demeanor about him, and with that the command was not very good."
Archer allowed four hits, walked four and struck out seven and gets points for keeping his team in the game. But Maddon used five relievers over the final five innings, including Kyle Farnsworth, who proved his right elbow is fine by recording five outs.
"I think I was trying to do a little too much, and was falling behind 2-0 and they forced me to throw strikes and work the count," Archer said. "Just threw way too many pitches."
Archer struck out Nava with the bases-loaded to end the fourth inning, and jumped off the mound while pumping his right fist. Given the history of bad blood between these two teams, that act could been seen as a display of disrespect."
The Red Sox didn't make an issue out of it after the game.
When asked if he might have showed a little too much emotion, Archer said, "Probably, but when I do that it's not toward the other team. I've I make a good pitch I get excited for my teams. They may have taken it the wrong way but in no way was it directed toward anybody on the other teams."