KANSAS CITY — Trudging out of Kauffman Stadium late Wednesday after yet another loss to the Royals, this one 6-3, the struggling Rays talked of at least taking something from the frustrating experience.
"We've got to play with passion. We've got to play with heart. We've got to use gut instinct," starter Chris Archer said. "I know that we've been pretty successful. But something has to change. And maybe playing this team right now and seeing how they play baseball will rub off on us and get us going in the right direction."
Did that mean he thought his teammates were lacking heart and hustle?
"It's hard to say (but) just watching that team play and seeing how they put things together and pick each other up is something that every single team can learn from," he said. "They're not as successful as they are for no reason. Hopefully we can learn from how they play baseball."
Earlier, Rays manager Kevin Cash had made his own observations, suggesting the Rays would do well to pick up on the aggressiveness and relentlessness with which the Royals play, and the resiliency they show in continuing to win despite losing key players to injury.
Also, specifically, the way in which their hitters put the ball in play, especially with men on base.
"Those guys don't strike out," Cash said. "We strike out too much. We've got to stop striking out."
He's right, of course, as the Royals went into play Wednesday having fanned the second-fewest times in the AL, 357, and his Rays the second-most, 477.
"You look at the (first) two ballgames, we're putting ourselves in the same situations they are with runners on base. They get it done because they put the ball in play, they move the ball. We don't. Or we haven't," Cash said. "We need to kind of tweak that thought process a little bit … with an emphasis of putting some pressure on the defense. And the only way you do that is to put the ball in play."
Archer put the Rays in an early 4-0 hole Wednesday, though it wasn't all his fault, which he noted by mentioning their defensive positioning, some bad bounces and how they let the Royals prolong innings in analyzing his outing.
"I did have good stuff, and I commanded the ball well," he said. "Lack of execution wasn't really an issue tonight."
Runs scored on a single through a shift-created hole, a ball that dropped in front of leftfielder Mikie Mahtook, a single just out of the reach of diving shortstop Brad Miller and an error on third baseman Evan Longoria, the Rays' 12th in their past nine games.
Still, the four runs were too many, as they Rays got no closer than 4-3 in the sixth, losing for the 15th time in their past 16 games in Kansas City and 23rd of 28 overall to the Royals.
Bigger picture, the Rays have lost 10 of 12 to drop to 22-29. The nine games they were behind in the AL East through 50 games was the largest deficit of the name-change era. They were 141/2 back at that point in 2007.
"We're fully capable," Archer said. "We just need to step up and do it. The clock is ticking."