The Rays joke and kid and carry on about their penchant for always making things so difficult on themselves. Well, they've done it again, losing 7-4 to the Red Sox on Saturday to fall behind two games to none in the best-of-five American League Division Series, putting their season, for the fourth time in a week, on the brink. But from the way these games have gone, it's no laughing matter.
Starter David Price failed once more on the postseason stage. Their defense was uncharacteristically sloppy for a second straight game. And clutch hits have again disappeared, as they killed three rallies with double plays and left seven men on.
"We definitively haven't made things easy on ourselves, and we're not in a good position right now," second baseman Ben Zobrist said. "We've got our backs against the wall, and we've done all right this past week with that situation, so we've got to try to do it again."
History is not encouraging, as only one of the past 24 teams to fall behind 0-2 in a division series, the 2012 Giants, came back to win. Also, the Sox have won 14 of the 21 games between the teams this season.
But as the Rays trudged out of Fenway Park to head home after their extended and exhausting road trip, making hopeful comments to the clubhouse staff about seeing them Thursday for Game 5, they claimed there was inspiration in their recent past.
They made it through three must-win games to get to Boston, so why can't they string together three more to get past them?
"We're not down," Price insisted. "We've been playing 'Game 7s' for the last three games before we came here. Our last game in Toronto was a Game 7, our game in Texas was a Game 7, our game in Cleveland was a Game 7. So this is nothing that we're not used to."
The series resumes Monday at sold-out Tropicana Field, the Rays having sturdy Alex Cobb on the mound facing Clay Buchholz. And the tilted roof will never look so inviting after what the Rays went through for two days here, breaks going against them, balls dropping in and bouncing off walls and past fielders, the Red Sox seemingly taking advantage of every miscue.
"I think we got out-Fenwayed," manager Joe Maddon said.
Price felt that was part of his problem, along with some bloop hits. But, in what could be his last game as a Ray pending a potential finances-driven offseason trade, he had other issues, allowing seven runs on nine hits, including a pair of home runs by David Ortiz, and a career-most six hits to lefty batters, over seven innings. In four postseason starts, he is now 0-4, 5.81.
"Absolutely, I'm disappointed," Price said. "It stinks, especially in the postseason when you want to go out there and pitch your best. You're as good as your last game, and (Saturday night) I wasn't very good."
He didn't get much help, the Rays picking up where they left off Friday, with more defensive mistakes and missed plays.
An errant throw by catcher Jose Molina in the first led to the Red Sox's first run. Zobrist twice failed to turn double plays that also led to runs, once when Shane Victorino slid in hard to take him out, the second time when he got a late feed from third baseman Evan Longoria, who appeared to double-clutch, and never got a grip on the ball, Zobrist launching a throw that actually hit the Red Sox dugout wall. And leftfielder David DeJesus made that worse when he couldn't make a catch against the Green Monster and the ball caromed away.
"At least they're not mental mistakes; you're going to make physical errors," Longoria said. "Obviously you don't want to make them now. This is the time where you want to play a perfect game defensively."
Even more so given the lack of offense. After falling behind 2-0 in the first, the Rays would get close, and had some chances to get even, but failed, going 2-for-8 with runners in scoring position.
"That's been our problem," Maddon said. "We've been unable to score with runners in scoring position. We get runners out there all the time like we did again. Double plays hurt us again. Overall, we were not able to break through with the clutch hit vs. these guys."
So now they're back to where they were, having to win a game or have their season end, then do it two more times.
In other words, they're once again not making things very easy on themselves.
"This," Maddon said, "is totally within our purview when it comes to that kind of stuff."
Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @TBTimes_Rays.