BOSTON — Their attention pre-game already divided by concerns over Hurricane Irma, the Rays figured to have enough problems Saturday night facing Red Sox ace Chris Sale.
Then a rough and abbreviated start by Matt Andriese made it even worse as they lost badly again, 9-0.
After opening his post-game media session claiming he didn't have much to say, Rays manager Kevin Cash made clear his displeasure with Andriese's outing, his second start since a two-plus month stint on the DL.
First, wondering why Andriese and catcher Wilson Ramos tried to pitch inside to veteran Dustin Pedroia, who lashed the fat fastball for a two-run homer in the first.
"Little headscratching why we're trying to go in to Pedroia,'' Cash said. "I've been around him a long tine and the league knows him, knows that he handles the ball in fairly well. He's proven that over a 10-year plus career now. I'm not quite sure what the thought process was, but that put us in a hole 2-0.''
Then Cash addressed the issues Andriese has with runners on base, an ongoing problem throughout his career, with trying to make throws to the bases as well as the plate.
"Runners getting on base, trying to control the running game, they get on base he leaves balls over the plate, in the middle of the plate,'' Cash said. "It's something that we've got to kind of work on and get better.
"Because guys are going to get on base. And the biggest outs of your career are going to come when guys are on base.''
That the Rays have lost two straight to the Red Sox by a combined 18-3, and three straight overall to drop to 70-73 while sitting 4 1/2 games out in the crowded field for the second AL wild-card with only 19 left no doubt contributed to Cash's mood.
Andriese didn't have much in the way of answers, as he gave up eight runs (six earned) before getting pulled with two outs in the second, allowing nine of the 14 batters he faced to reach base.
"Just not one of those good days,'' Andriese said. "I was out there throwing strikes, but they were too hittable pitches, elevating the fastball a little bit. Just not going about it the way I usually would like to. And obviously the results weren't there.''
If anything, Andriese made it sound like he just wasn't comfortable between the time he missed and having an altered and then abbreviated rehab assignment. He allowed the White Sox five runs in five innings last Sunday in his first start. He did say that the lack of familiarity with Ramos was not a factor.
"Coming back from the (hip) injury, trying to put up zeroes, trying to get back to where I was before, obviously it's live and learn,'' Andriese said. "Not exactly how I wanted it or planned it that way.''
As for the strategy with Pedroia, Andriese said he was trying to go more inside but left the ball over too much of the plate.
"I was trying to go inside; hopefully he would roll it over,'' Andriese said. "Obviously it's probably not the best pitch selection there.''
As for dealing with runners on base, Andriese didn't think it was anything more than rustiness.
"Being away from the game for three months, those were things when I was pitching well they kind of go away,'' he said, "I don't really feel too much about it today, but obviously that creeps back into your mind.
"I'm not feeling comfortable, and when you're not feeling good in all aspects of the game - this game is hard as it is. When yoy are thinking a little too much or thinking about what pitch to throw or is this guy running, it's not a good recipe for success.''
Meanwhile, Sale was tough as usual, though not as dominant, allowing six hits and striking out eight over six innings, pretty much on cruise control after getting the 8-0 lead in the second.
For the night, five Rays pitchers allowed 15 hits, though a solid four-inning outing by Austin Pruitt kept it from being worse. Plus the Rays made two errors, giving the AL East-leading Sox even more help.
"It feels like everything they hit finds holes and it's tough to beat a team when that happens,'' first baseman Logan Morrison said. "Yeah, they've hit balls hard but a lot of ground balls getting through, things like that, balls hitting lines. They're a good team, but I think it all boils down to that if we can limit damage we have a chance.''
Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected]. Follow @TBTimes_Rays.