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Rays lose fifth straight, 5-0 to Indians

CLEVELAND — What's wrong is obvious, a stifling lack of offense that led to the Rays' season-high fifth straight loss Friday, 5-0 to the Indians.

But why it's happening is unclear.

And that might be the bigger problem.

There were several theories in the clubhouse, starting with manager Joe Maddon saying the Rays were mentally fatigued, that they had "been playing really hard, and with a lot of emotion, for a long time," and the All-Star break was coming "at the right time."

Starter James Shields said they were physically tired, "pretty much spent" from playing so many tough teams. Leftfielder Carl Crawford attributed it to bad timing, saying it's "rare to have a whole offense really struggling at the same time."

And All-Star pitcher Scott Kazmir introduced a different, and troubling idea, suggesting teammates were more concerned with how other contenders are doing than their performance.

"We've got to concentrate on the game we're playing,'' he said.

For whatever reason, the Rays haven't played, or looked, like the team with the best record in the majors. Which is appropriate because they no longer are, at 55-37 having been surpassed by the Cubs. They did, however, maintain their 1½ game AL East lead when the Red Sox lost.

"We have not really played well. We have not hit well. We have not done a whole lot of anything well recently," Maddon said. But he said he remained confident and unconcerned it was anything more than "the ebb and flow of the season."

As much as the offense is the issue — seven runs, a .192 average and two total hits with runners in scoring position in the five games — they had their chances Friday. Plenty.

They had baserunners in every inning, including the leadoff man in the first four and the final, and, still, nothing. After going 69 games without being shut out, they were blanked for the second time in four days. One runner got as far as third. Three others stranded at second.

It was so bad that each player made the last out of an inning.

Akinori Iwamura drew an opening walk from 12-game winner Cliff Lee, and the next three Rays struck out. All-Star Evan Longoria doubled to open the second and went to third on a groundout. But Willy Aybar and Jonny Gomes — right-handers in the lineup because of the lefty — managed only infield popups.

Ben Zobrist singled to lead off the third, and Iwamura popped up a bunt. Then Crawford (0-for-20 in his latest slump) and B.J. Upton made outs. After Carlos Pena singled to start the fourth, there were two strikeouts and a flyout.

And so it went.

The pitching wasn't exactly stellar either as Shields allowed five runs and a season-high matching 10 hits in six innings.

Nor was the defense as Gomes misplayed or didn't make a play on several balls in rightfield and Crawford botched a routine fly. Shields noted the "bad breaks."

Maddon said it is all related.

"It's just a matter that when you don't hit, your whole team looks bad," he said. "And that's what's going on right now."

Shields said it has to change, and soon. "We've got to get out of it,'' he said. "We've got to get out of it before the break.''

Indians 5

Rays 0

Rays lose fifth straight, 5-0 to Indians 07/11/08 [Last modified: Sunday, July 13, 2008 9:54am]

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