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Inside the Rays continuing historically bad slump

The numbers tell the story of the Rays inexplicable ongoing offensive slump, and the words detail how tough it has been to deal with.

Over their last 14 games - since returning from Houston where they won the last three games against the Astros - the Rays have been brutally bad, scoring just 24 runs, hitting .192 overall (86-for-449) and a stunning .098 with runners in scoring position (8-for-82).

The 24 runs are the fewest in franchise history over for a 14-game stretch, and the fewest over that period for any AL team since the 2013 Astros scored 21 during their 111-loss season.

"It's been perplexing,'' manager Kevin Cash said before Saturday's game. "It's beyond frustrating. The guys are frustrated for good reason. We could deny it and say that we're not but that's - I better watch what I say - but we're frustrated, there's no doubt. We're gonna try and do everything we can to stay positive through those frustrations, to kind of stick together, lean on each other to get through this, get that crooked number inning, and hopefully that turns us on.'' …

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For starters: Rays vs. Mariners, with another new look

UPDATE, 5:12: Cash said the experiment of having Longoria hit 2nd is over, that they didn't get the "immediate results" they were looking for and he will go back to the No. 3 slot he is more comfortable with. ... Also, Kevin Kiermaier will stay at the top of the order as the primary leadoff hitter. ... Cash said RHP Alex Cobb looked good throwing live batting practice to a couple of minor-leaguers and then more in the bullpen, and they expect him to rejoin the rotation against the Jays next week. ... Cash said RHP Matt Andriese was "fine" after being hit on the left ankle by a ball two pitches into his rehab game Friday, but as a result will need to make two more starts in the minors, which pushs his return back to around Sept. 2. …

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Rays morning after: Kiermaier shows he can 'rock 'n' roll'

Tampa Bay Rays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier is congratulated in the dugout after scoring on a sacrifice fly by first baseman Lucas Duda in the sixth inning of the game against the Seattle Mariners at Tropicana Field on Friday.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Tampa Bay Rays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier is congratulated in the dugout after scoring on a sacrifice fly by first baseman Lucas Duda in the sixth inning of the game against the Seattle Mariners at Tropicana Field on Friday.

Kevin Kiermaier’s return to the lineup was one of the lone positives Friday during the Rays 7-1 loss to the Mariners at Tropicana Field.

He said before the game that his body felt great after missing 61 games because of a right hip fracture and a lower back strain and he was ready to “rock ‘n’ roll.”

Kiermaier did just that in the sixth inning when he used his speed to produce the Rays lone run of the night.

He started with a hit to left-centerfield that he turned into a double by turning on the jets after rounding first base and making any throw to second useless. It was the “hustle double” that Rays have grown fond of over the years and missed while he was sidelined.

After crossing to third on a grounder to second by Evan Longoria, Kiermaier easily scored on Corey Dickerson’s fly ball to center.

“It’s been since June that I did that,” Kiermaier said. “A long wait for that to happen again. Hopefully, you’re going to see plenty more of that the next couple of months. All I want to do is whatever it takes to hit the ball hard and run around and the let the big guys drive me in.”

Rays manager Kevin Cash said he was pleased with how smooth Kiermaier looked while fielding his position.  …

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Rays series preview: Who are the Mariners?

Starter Erasmo Ramirez will face the Rays after they traded him to the Mariners in July.

Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

Starter Erasmo Ramirez will face the Rays after they traded him to the Mariners in July.

The Rays are back home again, duking it out with another club in the American League Wild Card chase — the Mariners, who have a slight advantage over Tampa Bay. Here's the information you need to know about Seattle before the action kicks off.

Record: 61-61, third in AL West

With about a month-and-a-half until the end of the season, 12 of 15 AL teams have a realistic shot at the playoffs. The Mariners are one of them — they're only 1.5 games out of the second Wild Card spot, and 1.5 games ahead of the Rays in that regard. Seattle's position players have carried it to this point; they've formed one of the most potent offenses in baseball, and they've excelled in the field as well. On the flip side, the rotation has been consistently terrible (more on that in a moment), and the bullpen leads the majors in blown saves. In a Mariners series, expect to see a lot of runs on the board.

"This Mariners' season has gotten grim. They lost 11-3 to the Orioles Monday night, suffering their fifth consecutive defeat. It's becoming more apparent that the Mariners are going to extend their playoff drought to 16 years, falling now two-and-a-half games out of the wild-card race." (Jim Moore, 710 ESPN) …

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Rays morning after: There (really) are still reasons to be optimistic

Trevor Plouffe reacts as he pops out with the bases loaded in the sixth inning against Toronto.

[Getty Images]

Trevor Plouffe reacts as he pops out with the bases loaded in the sixth inning against Toronto.

There are plenty of reasons to be pessimistic about the Rays' chances to get out of their extended skid and make the playoffs, including veteran 3B Evan Longoria's acknowledgement after Thursday's game that the pressures of the race may be getting to them.

But there - really - are still some reasons to be optimistic, as they are 60-63 and have 39 games left and are only three games, though five teams, from a wild-card spot.

Here are three: …

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Kevin Cash: 'We've got to turn it around. ... Time is of the essence'

"We've got to start playing good baseball games whether we match up well against that team or not," Kevin Cash said.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

"We've got to start playing good baseball games whether we match up well against that team or not," Kevin Cash said.

The question to manager Kevin Cash was about a rematch with the Mariners this weekend at the Trop, but he made clear this afternoon that with his Rays losing nine of their last 12 that they have to treat every game as essential.

"We've got to turn it around,'' Cash said. "You can only delay it for so long and say there's time, there's time. Time is of the essence. We've got to start playing good baseball games whether we matchup well against that team or not, forget it. We have to play good baseball."

The Rays faced the Mariners in Seattle in early June and were swept in a three-game series.

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For starters: Rays at Jays, with Longoria moved to No. 2 spot in order

Evan Longoria was moved from his usual No. 3 spot in the batting order up to second.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Evan Longoria was moved from his usual No. 3 spot in the batting order up to second.

UPDATE, 3:10: Cash said the change was made primarily for two reasons, to change the look for several of the hitters and to get back to alternating lefty and righty hitters to make it tougher for opposing managers to match up relievers. Cash said he plans to stick with this structure for a while but doesn't consider anything permanent. "I'm trying, we're all trying to find what works,'' he said. Longoria, who has a long-stated preference to hit third, said he was fine with the move. "It  doesn't bother me one bit. I just want us to get going,'' he said. ...CF Kevin Kiermaier (hip, back) will play what could be his final rehab game tonight with the Stone Crabs and rejoin the Rays on Friday. ... RHP Alex Cobb (toe) will throw off the mound again Friday eyeing a return to the rotation next week.

Here is the Jays lineup, with no Bautista or Pillar:
Aoki rf
Donaldson 3b
Smoak 1b
Morales dh
Pearce lf
Carrerra cf
Montero c
Goins ss
Barney 2b
Rowley p

UPDATE, 1:03: Manager Kevin Cash made an even bigger change in the Rays lineup today, moving 3B Evan Longoria from his usual No. 3 spot up to second. And he stuck with Brad Miller in the leadoff spot.

Here is the lineup: …

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Rays morning after: 5 mistakes that led to loss to Blue Jays

Jake Faria make too many mistakes, the failure to execute costing him repeatedly.

Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP

Jake Faria make too many mistakes, the failure to execute costing him repeatedly.

We've already documented elsewhere what the Rays didn't do, how they failed to take advantage of a prime opportunity to win Wednesday's game, getting just one run after loading the bases in the seventh with one out and three of their most productive hitters up.

In this space we are going to review some of the things they did wrong which led directly to them losing the game to Toronto 3-2.

Such as: …

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For starters: Rays at Jays, with a different look to lineup

Daniel Robertson is expected to make a third straight start tonight, likely at shortstop.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Daniel Robertson is expected to make a third straight start tonight, likely at shortstop.

UPDATE, 6:40: Former Rays reliever LHP J.P. Howell was DFA'd today by the Blue Jays; he had a 7.36 ERA in 16 games.

UPDATE, 6:15: Even with some success last night, Cash followed through on some discussed lineup changes, dropping struggling Corey Dickerson from the top to 7th and replacing him with Brad Miller, who hasn't hit much but has been walking a lot.

"Maybe just a change of scenery for both the guys that got flip-flopped will so some good,'' Cash said.

Also of note, Cash gave days off to RF Steven Souza Jr. and C Wilson Ramos, who has homered the last two nights. Also, Cash is playing Robertson for a third straight night with Hechavarria out of the lineup for the second time in three days.

Cash said Miller may not stay at the top beyond tonight, but Dickerson will stay in the 6-7 slots for while.


Here is the Rays lineup:
Miller 2b
Duda dh
Longoria 3b
Morrison 1b
Robertson ss
Dickerson lf
Bourjos cf
Smith rf
Sucre c
Faria p

And here is the Jays lineup:
Bautista rf
Donaldson 3b
Smoak 1b
Morales dh
Pearce lf
Pillar cf
Goins ss
Barney 2b
Lopez c
Stroman p …

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Rays morning after: The real reasons behind Tuesday's win over Blue Jays

Corey Dickerson (10) celebrates Tuesday's victory with Steven Souza Jr. (20) and Peter Bourjos (18).

[Getty Images]

Corey Dickerson (10) celebrates Tuesday's victory with Steven Souza Jr. (20) and Peter Bourjos (18).

Scoring six runs was the big news for the offensively challenged Rays in Tuesday's victory over the Blue Jays.

But it was the old reliable reasons - pitching and defense - that allowed them to win the game.

Having been limited to 12 runs total in their previous 10 games, the Rays felt pretty good about taking a 6-1 lead in the fifth.

RELATED: Rays snap out of offensive slump with win over Blue Jays

But they quickly were feeling a little uncomfortable when starter Blake Snell put two on and gave up a three-run homer to Josh Donaldson to make it 6-4.

Third base coach Charlie Montoyo walked by manager Kevin Cash and stated the obvious, that "it's never easy.''

Snell allowed another hit to bring the tying run to the plate, but struck out Kendrys Morales and got help when LF Corey Dickerson ran down Steve Pearce's liner to end the inning.

The Rays put on a show after that:

* With a man on and two outs in the sixth, 3B Evan Longoria made a diving stop and throw to first for the final out and let starter Blake Snell leave with the lead. "Longo's play to end that inning was huge,'' Cash said. …

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Evan Longoria on Rays' batting slump: 'It's kind of embarassing'

"It's kind of embarrassing for lack of a better explanation,'' Evan Longoria said of the Rays' hitting woes.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

"It's kind of embarrassing for lack of a better explanation,'' Evan Longoria said of the Rays' hitting woes.

The kind of slump the Rays have been in - scoring just 12 runs in their last 10 games - is hard to believe.

It's also hard to explain, especially for their team leader, 3B Evan Longoria.

"It's kind of embarrassing for lack of a better explanation,'' Longoria said this afternoon. "I wouldn't think it's for lack of effort and I dont think it's for lack of belief. I don't really have an explanation for it.''

If anything, Longoria did say it has been a group effort, and that there is no one person - not manager Kevin Cash, hitting coach Chad Mottola or any player - to blame.

Their .166 team average during that stretch, and 3-for-45 mark with runners in scoring position, accentuate that.

"Talking to a couple of guys last night it just feels like we're one big swing away every night and we're just not getting it,'' Longoria said.

"It feels like collectively over the last week and a half the middle part of the order, we've probably fouled back 100 good pitches.

"And it's also not for lack of having good at-bats or swinging at the right pitches. I feel like guys are grinding through at-bats for the most part and swinging at the right pitches. It's just we're not hitting them. …

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For starters: Rays at Jays, mired in a historically bad slump

Daniel Robertson will start at second base for the Rays.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Daniel Robertson will start at second base for the Rays.

UPDATE, 5:33: Cash defended sticking with the same lineup but admitted change could be coming, and soon if they struggle again tonight. ... Cash said RHP Alex Cobb (toe) had a good day at the Trop and could resume throwing off the mound tomorrow which should make for a return next week. ... RHP Matt Andriese (hip) will make his second rehab start on Friday for the Stone Crabs; CF Kevin Kiermaier (hip, back) is playign for them tonight and the next two.

Here is the Jays lineup:
Bautista rf
Donaldson 3b
Smoak 1b
Morales dh
Pearce lf
Pillar cf
Refsnyder 2b
Ohlman c
Barney ss
Estrada p


DEVELOPING: Mired in the worst 10-game slump for an AL team in the 45 years of the DH era, the Rays hope to change things tonight when they take on the Jays again in Toronto. …

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Rays morning after: Inside the "quirky" 7th inning controversy

Toronto Blue Jays second baseman Rob Refsnyder (39)  looks on as Tampa Bay Rays' Corey Dickerson, second from right, and Daniel Robertson, second from left, find themselves both on the base while Blue Jays shortstop Ryan Goins (17) looks to umpires during a play challenge Monday during seventh-inning baseball game action in Toronto. Dickerson was found out at first base while Robertson was declared out at second following the challenge.

Frank Gunn | Canadian Press via AP

Toronto Blue Jays second baseman Rob Refsnyder (39) looks on as Tampa Bay Rays' Corey Dickerson, second from right, and Daniel Robertson, second from left, find themselves both on the base while Blue Jays shortstop Ryan Goins (17) looks to umpires during a play challenge Monday during seventh-inning baseball game action in Toronto. Dickerson was found out at first base while Robertson was declared out at second following the challenge.

The umpires' confusion over a seemingly straightforward call created a bit of a bigger mixup in the Rays 2-1 loss.

With Peter Bourjos on second and Daniel Robertson on first to open the seventh, Corey Dickerson flared a ball - not high enough to be an infield fly - that 2B Rob Refsnyder intentionally short-hopped and tossed to SS Ryan Goins.

Goins touched the base first, which took off the force, then tagged Bourjos, who stayed on second, and, eventually, Robertson who knew he has to run to second.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Plenty of blame to go around for Rays' offensive slump

Second-base umpire Lance Barksdale incorrectly called both Rays out, and it took a couple of conversations with Cash and a 3-minute-plus replay review/reversal to get it right, with Bourjos going back to second, with Dickerson on first.

Cash praised the crew for, eventually, getting it right.

"I kind of applaud them for the patience they showed and communicating with each each other and then going to replay to see exactly whaht took place. It was a very unique play. ... A very quirky play.''

Cash said the Rays runners did the right things, though at the time neither was sure: …

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Rays add Chase Whitley to bullpen in place of Alvarado

Chase Whitley gives the Rays a reliever capable of working multiple innings, which they may need.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Chase Whitley gives the Rays a reliever capable of working multiple innings, which they may need.

UPDATE, 6:36: Cash said the move was made to make sure there was a long reliever in the pen, pointing out that Whitley didn't really deserve to be sent down at the time, and also that Alvarado showed he could be of help.

"(We) have to protect our rotation and our bullpen guys that we have by being able to provide some length,'' Cash said.

DEVELOPING: The Rays called up RHP Chase Whitley to fill the open spot in their bullpen.

Whitley gives the Rays a reliever capable of working multiple innings, which they may need. RHP Jake Odorizzi is starting tonight five days after being knocked out of a start when a line drive hit his right foot, though he tested it Friday and said he felt fine.

Still, Odorizzi has not worked more than four innings in his last two big-league starts, and spent nearly two weeks on the DL, making a three-inning rehab start along the way. His return last Wednesday was not going well before he was hit as he had thrown 74 pitches in the first three innings.

Whitley was with the Rays most of the season, compiling a 2-1, 3.45 record in 31 games before being sent down after the July 31 game.

The Rays sent LHP Jose Alvarado down after Sunday's game.

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For starters: Rays at Jays, trying to get something going before it's too late

Jake Odorizzi will be on the mound for the Rays.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Jake Odorizzi will be on the mound for the Rays.

UPDATE, 6:43: Cash acknowledged playing Duda at 1B rather than DH in part due to comfort as he is 0-for-15, 4-for-30 skid, said rest should be good for LoMo too. ... Cash said "there's no benching going on,'' wanted to get Hechavarria and Mallex off their feet, said will rest others this week as well. ... Cash said Robertson may get to play a couple days in a row. ...  Cash said not date set for Cobb's return as he had issue with the toe on Sunday and didn't throw a planned bullpen session but felt better today.

UPDATE, 3:44: And here is the Jays lineup:

Bautista rf

Donaldson 3b
Smoak 1b
Morales dh
Pearce lf
Goins ss
Pillar cf
Lopez c
Refsnyder 2b
Tepesch p

UPDATE, 3:39: The Rays recalled RHP Chase Whitley to fill the open spot in their bullpen, The Whitley move makes sense since it gives the Rays a long man in the bullpen as Odorizzi has not gone more than four innings since July 17, given his time on the DL.

UPDATE, 3:35: There is a slightly different look to the Rays lineup tonight, with Peter Bourjos and Daniel Robertson getting starts.

Here is the lineup:

Dickerson lf,
Duda 1b,
Longoria 3b,
Morrison dh,
Souza rf,
Miller 2b,
Ramos c,
Bourjos cf,
Robertson ss,
Odorizzi p …

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