Indians 5, Rays 2

Rays fall out of first with 7th straight loss

CLEVELAND — They've lost seven straight games and their hold on first place, and about the only thing the Rays could be happy about as they headed different ways out of town was that they don't have to play again until Friday.

The All-Star break officially began after Sunday's 5-2 defeat, their fourth in a row to the last-place Indians, though some would say the Rays started days ago.

The 55-39 record is still by far the best they've ever had at the break, though much of the thrill and shine is gone, as is what eight days ago was a five-game lead over the Red Sox. Instead, the Rays will spend the break in second place, 21/2 games ahead of the Twins for the AL wild card.

Maddon wants them to use the time to rest their bodies and refresh their minds, and he plans to address the group before Thursday's workout to remind them of what it took, and what it will take, to continue winning.

"We've got to get our focus back. We have to continue what we've been doing at home and then we have to play better baseball on the road in order to get to that last game of the year," Maddon said.

"We were going to have a losing streak at some point, whether it was five, six or seven games, whatever it was. It happens to everybody, and I accept that.

"But you've got to learn from it. When you're a young player, sometimes you feel as though you're going to get the same kind of an opportunity on an annual basis, and it's not necessarily true. When you have these opportunities, you have to take advantage of it. You've really got to rise to the occasion. And the focus and the preparation has to remain constant. I just want to remind our players of that.

"We're in a very good position right now. We've earned the right to be there. Now we've got to do everything to stay there."

To start, they'll have to hit better. The lack of offense has been a constant theme of the losing streak, as they've scored just 13 runs, hit .187 and gone 5-for-53 with runners in scoring position.

And they didn't make much of an effort to stop the slide Sunday, getting a season-low-matching three hits (all singles) while striking out a season-high 14 times against five nondescript Indians pitchers, who retired the last 17 Rays. They managed only two runs despite seven walks — all in the first four innings.

And because they're not hitting, all other struggles are magnified. Balls are dropping in or just getting by fielders, pitchers aren't getting outs when they need them.

All-Star Scott Kazmir had another rough outing, allowing two homers in six innings, and is 1-4, 4.97 in his past seven starts.

"My confidence really isn't there right now," he said. "It's kind of in the back of your head right before you throw it, you feel like you don't want to throw a certain pitch in a certain location. And you just can't think like that. I've got to get that out of my head, I guess."

That's not their only problem.

"We're going to go through this," Kazmir said. "We just have to not dwell on it, and get right back on track."

Easier said, or done?

Marc Topkin can be reached at topkin@sptimes.com.

>>Fast facts

Way up, way down

On Sunday, the Rays became the fifth team in the past 31 years to follow a winning streak of at least seven games with a losing streak at least that long. The list:

Team Wins Losses

2008 Rays 77

2000 Pirates 88

1998 Reds 107

1978 Twins 88

1977 Red Sox 78

Sources: Elias Sports Bureau, ESPN

Rays fall out of first with 7th straight loss 07/13/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 15, 2008 12:36am]

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