CLEVELAND — After ending a seven-game winning streak with an extra-innings loss to the Royals on Monday and dropping a pair of games in New York against the desperate and motivated Yankees, the Rays insisted there was nothing to worry about.
But after losing a season-high matching fourth straight on Thursday, and losing 13-2 — their largest margin of defeat of the year — to a last-place Indians team that had lost 10 straight?
Manager Joe Maddon and several players said they were not yet concerned, that it was still nothing more than a stretch of a few losses in a long season.
But James Shields, who will take the mound tonight, said it was time for a change.
"It's time to stop the bleeding," Shields said. "We've pretty much had enough right now. I think we need to start kicking it in gear the last three games before the All-Star break and set ourselves up right going into the second half.
"We just had a couple of bad games. We need to stop making some mistakes we're making. But that's baseball, and we're moving on."
The day actually started well for the Rays (55-36) with the news that Evan Longoria had been voted onto the AL All-Star team, a two-run homer in the third by Jonny Gomes, and four zeroes posted by native Ohioan Andy Sonnanstine.
But then it went from bad to worst, as in their worst loss of the season, their lead over the idle Red Sox sliced to 1½ games in the AL East.
They gave up five runs in the fifth, another in the sixth and then a season-high seven in an ugly eighth by Gary Glover.
Sonnanstine had been something of a good luck charm, with a 6-1 record after Rays losses, and proud of it. Plus he had won four straight, had a 10-3 record and hadn't given up a homer since May 21.
But he started to lose his control, and maybe his focus, in the fifth, allowing the five runs on six hits, including a pair of home runs. And then he gave up another to open the sixth.
"This one's real frustrating for me for a bunch of reasons," he said. "We dropped (three) games coming into this series, and I kind of pride myself on being the stopper. With hometown family and friends in the stands and to get beat like that in a blowout, it's never a good feeling."
As bad as the pitching was — allowing a season-high 13 runs and four homers — Maddon seemed to put most of the blame on the still struggling offense, which has produced three runs and 14 hits (one with a runner in scoring position) in the past 28 innings.
"Maybe again it's the proverbial trying too hard as opposed to trying easier," Maddon said. "We're getting more into just swinging for the five-run homer as opposed to playing offense.
"We need to start playing offense again. When we score runs in a variety of different ways, we're always better. Right now, we're just scoring runs via the home run; and not frequently either."
With Shields (against 11-game winner Cliff Lee), Matt Garza and Scott Kazmir pitching, Maddon is confident it won't be a lost weekend. "We've got to do better," he said.
Marc Topkin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org