ST. PETERSBURG — Rays manager Joe Maddon says he is as cognizant of the future during a season as he is of the present.
In a 162-game season, keeping players fresh is paramount. But that has been tough of late with a bullpen that has been forced to work extra hard because the starting rotation is not eating up enough innings.
"They are lambasted, I'm telling you, right now," Maddon said.
It showed in Friday's 6-3 loss to the Indians at Tropicana Field as the bullpen could not hold a 2-0 lead given to it by Jake Odorizzi, who worked a scrappy five innings with 11 strikeouts.
That said, the game was the 17th in the past 24 in which Rays starters went five innings or fewer. And in Tampa Bay's four-game losing streak, the bullpen has lost three games and allowed 10 runs in 151/3 innings (5.88 ERA).
"We're not covering enough innings like you would need to," Maddon said of the starting pitching. "So these guys have been extended a bit. But, honestly, I have so much confidence in all of them. I think it's going to be a really, really, really good bullpen by the end of the season. It's tough getting the pieces together right now."
Brad Boxberger allowed a leadoff homer in the sixth. Joel Peralta allowed a leadoff homer in the seventh, and Brandon Gomes allowed an RBI single to his first batter and a three-run blast that capped a five-run seventh that gave Cleveland a 6-2 lead.
It was the Rays' sixth straight loss at the Trop, the team's longest home losing streak within one season since June 2005, another six-game skid.
In addition, shortstop Yunel Escobar was lost with a right thumb contusion. It is not believed to be serious (X-rays were negative), and he is day to day.
There were positives.
David DeJesus had four hits, including three doubles, and two RBIs, and Odorizzi got through the fifth inning for the first time in four starts with a breaking pitch that got strikeouts at big times.
But this was more the norm: The Rays (15-21), with runners on first and second with no outs in the sixth after singles by James Loney and Evan Longoria, could not add to a 2-1 lead as Indians starter Corey Kluber struck out Wil Myers and Matt Joyce swinging and Brandon Guyer looking.
And after scoring two in the ninth, Loney flied out to short rightfield with the bases loaded to end the game.
In fact, Maddon said as problematic as has been the pitching, scoring just 10 runs during the losing streak isn't much better.
"Primarily, we have not hit," he said. "You can look at the bullpen (Friday), but we have 10 runs in four games. It's hard. And at the end of the day, that's pretty much where we are right now. We have to do a better job of pushing runs across."
Perhaps, but Boxberger gave up a leadoff home run to Asdrubal Cabrera in the sixth to make the score 2-1.
Cleveland tied it in the seventh on Michael Brantley's booming leadoff home run to right-centerfield off Peralta. And Gomes allowed a Mike Aviles' three-run blast that made it 6-2.
"It was nice to get back on the right track," Odorizzi said. "It was just bittersweet we couldn't have won."