NEW YORK — Kevin Cash was not going to go all Lou Piniella on his Rays, raging and ripping and roaring over their latest mess, a 4-1 Saturday loss to the Yankees that didn't feel that close.
Which is too bad because Piniella, the volcanic former manager of the Devil Rays, is slated to be at Yankee Stadium for Sunday's Old-Timers' Day festivities and might have been quite proud to hear his former player went off.
And because, well, the Rays may have deserved it.
The loss wasn't particularly egregious, especially since the Yankees had their ace on the mound in Luis Severino and the Rays were using their opener strategy against the potent pinstripers, going from Ryne Stanek to Ryan Yarbrough to Austin Pruitt.
But it was just how they got there, with a sloppy effort all around, in terms of misplaced pitches, at-bats that lacked intensity and a series of mistakes in the field.
And where it left them, losing for the third straight time on this trip at the front end of a torturous stretch against the contending Yankees, Astros and Nationals, and 12th time in their last 16 games overall.
Cash pushed back on a question about the mounting frustration — "You're trying to bait me'' — but then admitted that the ongoing struggles, especially as they are transitioning to a younger team, is, well, you know …
"Listen, it's frustrating losing games,'' he said. "You want these young guys to come up here and experience success personally and as a team. The good thing is, we talk about it all the time, these guys have won together (in the minors), they're going to be able to withstand some tough stretches.
"We're in a tough stretch. We're playing a really, really good team. There's no break. There's no break in the lineup. There's no break in the pitching. And there's certainly no break in the back end of their bullpen.''
But to get anywhere, the Rays are going to have to find ways to beat the Yankees, and the Astros, and the Red Sox, Mariners, Indians and others ahead of them.
And there is something to be said for making their own breaks.
Or at least trying hard — or harder — to do so.
That seemed to be the message from third baseman Matt Duffy, who has perspective and the experience of being part of the Giants 2014 championship team as a rookie and also some bad ones.
"I think it's easy when you play a team like (the Yankees) to almost, not be in awe of them, but almost kind of mentally defeat yourself before the game even starts,'' he said. "I'm not saying that's what we were doing, but it seems like we come out with a good little bit of energy and then when they jump on us early it's kind of flat after that.
"It's just staying consistent throughout the game with the consistent at-bats and the energy level. You've got to realize these guys, even though they're a very good team, they still make mistakes and you've got to be on your game all nine innings in order to capitalize on them. …
"It almost feels like we're just waiting to get beat instead of attacking the game.''
They made their share of mistakes in all facets Saturday.
They got behind early, as Yarbrough was not sharp after replacing Stanek in the second, a four-pitch walk to lefty Greg Bird leading eventually to a run on Gleyber Torres' two-out double.
The Yankees added on in the third, an Aaron Judge liner that somehow eluded centerfielder Mallex Smith leading to another run. And then flexed their muscle in the fifth, as Giancarlo Stanton and Gary Sanchez took Yarbrough deep.
Smith's misplay was one of several missed plays, along with an error by rookie shortstop Willy Adames on what looked like a lapse in concentration.
With the offense pretty much shut down over eight innings by Severino — "You could argue he's maybe the best pitcher in the American League right now,'' Cash said — and the only run on Duffy's homer in the ninth, there wasn't much to grab on to as the Rays fell to 32-38.
Cash insisted there were positives, at least in the experience for the young players that now populate their roster and represent their hope for future success, and how it will eventually make them better.
"We're going to find a way to pull positives,'' he said. "But ultimately the most positive thing would be finding a way to win a game.''
Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected] Follow @TBTimes_Rays