CLEVELAND — The Rays already have lost any chance of carrying confidence and momentum from their stellar start into an All-Star break that apparently can't start soon enough.
And today they can lose their hold on first place.
The Rays lost their sixth straight Saturday, 8-4 to the previously woeful Indians, and what was a five-game AL East lead over the Red Sox just a week ago is down to a half-game going into today's first-half finale.
"It's just collective as a group we're not getting it done," DH Cliff Floyd said. "I think sometimes things snowball on you a little bit, and I think, I hope not think, I hope, this is a good learning experience for us, just like anything we went through this season thus far.
"And thank God the break is tomorrow."
The story line of the skid has been somewhat straightforward, a lack of offense magnifying pitching and defensive mistakes and causing fans frightening flashbacks.
The Rays (55-38) took some solace in scoring four runs in the eighth inning — more than in their previous four games combined — though they were down 7-0 at the time, having been blanked by Indians spot starter Matt Ginter, who hadn't won a big-league game in more than four years.
They even got a hit, actually two in a row, with a runner in scoring position, their first since the seventh inning Tuesday. And manager Joe Maddon praised their effort to rally, as Floyd and Dioner Navarro had back-to-back two-run hits.
"Hopefully," he said, "that breaks it open a bit" for today.
As much as Maddon said he doesn't believe in changing things because of the slump, he did, benching B.J. Upton and batting Eric Hinske third.
Hitting coach Steve Henderson held a 20-minute pregame meeting telling players to relax and, Maddon said, "re-establish awareness" of situations.
But it didn't change much.
In the slide, they scored 11 and hit .198, going 4-for-47 with runners in scoring position.
And that's not all that's wrong.
Matt Garza gave up a career-worst 11 hits and a season-high-matching seven runs in five innings, including a pair of two-run homers. Maddon said his location was off, but Garza said he made good pitches ("I was just like yeah, yeah, wow") that the Indians seemed to expect and somehow managed hit to good spots.
And the defense was again shoddy.
Gabe Gross, playing center in place of Upton, and rightfielder Hinske ran and dived for Ryan Garko's bases-loaded line drive in the third, but both missed, and three runs scored.
Later, Ben Zobrist, subbing for injured shortstop Jason Bartlett, booted a grounder for their 23rd error in 22 games; they made 30 in their first 71.
Win or lose today, the break won't be as fun as they hoped.
"All the hype was great, it was a great thing to be part of … it's a great turnaround for this club," Floyd said. "We're taking the high side of this and saying, you know what, we played a good half, it's unfortunate we're losing a little bit right now.
"But if you had to ask anybody in this locker room, I think he would say I'd rather this happen right now before the break and hopefully in the second half we come out on fire just like we did to start this thing off."
Marc Topkin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.