Tuesday, May 22, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Is 3-6 Rays problem the way they're playing or way they were built?

ST. PETERSBURG — Watching Chris Archer walk off the mound one out into the sixth inning of Thursday's 6-0 loss to the Indians was symbolism enough of just how rough the beginning of his season has been.

Three starts into his encore after emerging as an ace and an All-Star last year, Archer is 0-3, with a 5.87 ERA, and has yet to get through six innings.

That he stood at his locker talking about how he hoped his teammates "can see that the effort is there" and that he was "totally, 100 percent" better than in his first two starts was another telling sign of how disappointing the results have been.

But you could make a case Archer has not had the worst opening stretch as the Rays have stumbled to a 3-6 start.

That distinction could instead go to baseball operations president Matt Silverman and his crew.

Because to this point — and, yes, since they deal heavily in numbers, it is only 5.6 percent of the season — their offseason reconstruction project hasn't looked like a very good plan.

The five players brought in to bolster the offense are hitting a combined .161. The defense overall has looked shaky in the three positions — shortstop, first base, catcher — the Rays changed to add bats. The net result of using a four-man rotation to this point is 0-6, 4.47, with a bullpen-taxing Saturday looming.

And the extensive turnover, which included the last-week-of-spring dismissals of first baseman James Loney and catcher Rene Rivera, has apparently taken a toll.

"I think we may be putting a little extra pressure on ourselves," Archer said. "Honestly, we're still trying to build that team chemistry, that team camaraderie. Because there are a lot of new faces and we're all trying to get on the same page and get comfortable. So, yeah, there is frustration because we know we're better than our record reflects."

Manager Kevin Cash didn't mask his disappointment in Thursday's game, which saw the Rays limited to five hits (three before the ninth) by a starter with a "pretty simple" approach, make two errors and several other misplays, give up three home runs, and have catcher Hank Conger allow five stolen bases (making it 44 in a row) and have a costly mistake on the bases.

"Ugly loss," Cash said. "Frustrating game, obviously. We didn't do too many things well, or anything well for that matter, today."

Cash has noticed the players starting to get frustrated. He said he took that as a good sign.

"I actually liked the fact today it looked like guys were frustrated," he said. "That's okay to be frustrated. We all should be a little frustrated after just the way we performed the last couple of nights, especially today. Today was just not good. Hopefully we'll turn the frustration into a positive and get on the board early (tonight)."

Runs tend to mask other flaws, and the Rays remain confident their offense will improve. Scoring early in the game would be a good start, as they haven't scored in the first six frames of their past three games and have led at the end of just eight of a possible 81 innings. And, you could posit, they are only three dramatic eighth-inning homers (two by Logan Forsythe) from being 0-9.

As much as Cash is all about the team as a whole, he acknowledged the lack of production from the new additions.

Logan Morrison is hitting .069 (2-for-19 with 14 strikeouts). Brad Miller is hitting .077 (2-for-26) with an error and a couple of uh-oh plays. Conger is hitting .188 (3-for-16) and validated concerns over control of the running game. Corey Dickerson does have three solo homers and a .267 average (8-for-30). Steve Pearce is hitting .273 (3-for-11) in rather limited duty.

"Not ideal," Cash said. "You want those guys, especially the guys you bring in from a different organization, to get off to a good start and find some comfort. And they will. Brad Miller, the bright spot I think he's barreled up four or five balls here in his last five or six at-bats. I think that's good to see.

"It's one swing of the bat, it's one big play that can kind of settle a lot of people. And hopefully that happens here soon."

As early as it is, soon can't be soon enough.

Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected] Follow @ TBTimes_Rays

     
       
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