ST PETERSBURG — The Rays are set to hit the September stretch run, but are stumbling to get to the starting line. Tampa Bay dropped the rubber game of a three-game set against the Los Angeles Angels, suffering a 2-0 loss in front of 15,741 for Thursday’s get-away day matinee. Jake Odorizzi (0-1) did an admirable job in a spot start, allowing just one run on four hits in five innings of work, but the Rays’ offense managed just two hits, only one after the first inning. Tampa Bay (75-57) has now lost four of the past five games and head to Oakland for an important three-game weekend series. The three-game series loss for the Rays is the first at Tropicana Field since losing three of four to Kansas City on June 13 to 16, snapping a streak of 10 consecutive home series unbeaten streak.
The Rays had a chance to break through against Jason Vargas in the bottom of the first when Desmond Jennings led off the game by drilling a double to the top of the wall in left-center field - narrowly missing a home run - and Ben Zobrist was hit by a pitch to put the first two runners on base. After Evan Longoria bounced into a fielder’s choice, Wil Myers walked to load the bases with one out. But Sean Rodriguez popped up to third and Yunel Escobar flew out to center to end the threat. From there Vargas was in control of the Rays offense retiring 12 of the next 13 batters he faced. The Angels offense, meanwhile, was able to stake Vargas to a two-run lead, the first coming courtesy of a two-out single by Luis Jiminez off Odorizzi in the second and a two-out base hit by Kole Calhoun off Alex Torres in the top of the sixth. Tampa Bay finally mounted another offensive threat in the bottom of the sixth when Zobrist led off with an infield single and advanced to second on a throwing error by Jiminez. But Longoria struck out, Myers walked before Rodriguez struck out and Escobar flew out to right to end the inning. Failing to produce offensively in key situations with runners in scoring position has been a factor in the recent lack of success for Tampa Bay’s offense. That was on display once against as the Ray’s 3-4-5-6 hitters went a combined 1-for-12 Thursday against the Angels, including 0-for-6 with a pair of walks with runners in scoring position. Tampa Bay tried to rally in the ninth after Escobar doubled following a lead-off walk by Myers to put runners on second and third with one out, but Kelly Johnson fouled out to the third base side and pinch-hitter David DeJesus flew out to the warning track in right field to end the game. firstname.lastname@example.org (813) 259-7835 twitter: @erlendssontbo