KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A baseball season, especially in its early stages, is best viewed with perspective.
And after Wednesday's 7-3 loss to the Royals dropped the Rays to 5-5 as they got to their first off day, several insisted the mediocre start was actually a positive sign.
"I like where we're at," third baseman Evan Longoria said. "The won-loss record and the batting average of some guys may not say that, but I think overall we're in a pretty good spot."
Though the starting pitching has been a bit uneven, with Jake Odorizzi posting an ugly line Wednesday in allowing seven runs and 10 hits in five innings and the injury to Matt Moore troubling, the heftier concern is an offense defined by marked inconsistency.
Runs have come in bunches, as they're scoring, on average, in only two of nine innings. Thus they've had uneven results: 30 runs in the five wins, hitting .291 with runners in scoring position; and seven in the losses, with a .133 mark. Wednesday was the sixth time they went to the ninth with one or no runs. The team average overall is .237.
Manager Joe Maddon insists they're better upon closer examination than it has looked.
"When you hit the ball hard it eventually comes back to you," he said. "We've been a little unlucky with placement. But I don't want our guys to change anything. I don't want them to think anything's wrong, because it's not. … A lot of our outs have been hard outs. We're working good at-bats for the most part. We're staying in our strike zones, not chasing. All the indicators are good. We've had some bad moments in regard to scoring runs."
Odorizzi's performance was reviewed similarly. He posted three zeroes in his return to Kauffman Stadium, where he made his big-league debut for the Royals in September 2012, then gave up two in the fourth and five in the rough fifth, capped by a two-out, three-run homer by Alex Gordon.
Maddon said the stat line was deceiving. "I'm serious," he said. "Break the game down, play back the tape and look at what happened — he pitched really well. Actually he was a little bit unfortunate."
Odorizzi, whose role is increased with Moore's injury, had a similar view, noting that several hits came on ground balls that, while not sharp, were well-placed in getting through the infield. And Gordon's home run was a "pop-up" that was carried by a wind Maddon referred to as "forces of nature."
"It's more frustrating with the results, but process-wise I did what I needed to do," Odorizzi said. "Pitches were made and I got ground balls. Couldn't ask for anything more than that. Things didn't go our way (Wednesday), and I got beat."
In other words, 5-5 isn't half bad.
"Sometimes people will look at a moment like this, and that's why I think it's really important to analyze exactly what's going on," Maddon said. "We're not playing badly. We're having good at-bats, making hard contact. Our pitchers are making some good pitches. (Wednesday) the ground balls went through the infield. That happens, that's part of the game. You've just got to stay with it."
Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected]