ST. PETERSBURG — Manager Joe Maddon has talked about how frustrating it has been at times that the Rays haven't been able to win those close games, the ones that often come down to a few key moments.
They won plenty of them in last year's World Series run.
But Tampa Bay's 4-3 loss to the Angels Tuesday night in front of 16,087 at Tropicana Field added to their early-season trend, with their last five defeats decided by two runs or less.
"We have to get beyond these conclusions where we lose the one-run game or the two-run game," Maddon said. "That part is frustrating, because the intent is really good, the work is good, the effort is good. We just have to something to make the play, make the pitch, whatever, on a more consistent basis. And we're going to."
This time, the Rays (29-31) got another strong start by right-hander James Shields, who gave up two earned runs in 61/3 innings but was hurt by a couple of errors.
And on a play that typified the night, Carlos Peña's sharp liner down the first-base line with the bases loaded in the seventh was snagged by Kendry Morales, turning a potential bases-clearing hit into an inning-ending double play.
And as a result, the Rays, who have lost three straight, are still six games behind the first-place Yankees in the AL East.
"That's probably the only difference between this year and last year, at this same time, we got almost all the breaks last year we could possibly get, we were getting," Ben Zobrist said. "But that just hasn't happened this year for some reason. I think for the most part you make your own breaks, and I think we're putting ourselves in good position, and we're fighting until the last out of the game. It just hasn't fallen into place yet."
Shields battled through an outing where he didn't have his best stuff, giving the Rays a chance. He gave up two in the first in a rally started by an error on Peña, with a single and fielder's choice knocking in the runs.
"It's one of those things where you've got to pick your team up by keeping them in the game," Shields said.
The Rays struggled to get the key hit, stranding runners in scoring position in the second, fourth and fifth. It wasn't until the sixth that they broke through on right-hander Jered Weaver. Zobrist knocked in a run with a groundout (he later homered), and Matt Joyce, who is 0-for-15 since homering in back-to-back games, hit a sacrifice fly to make it 3-2. But they were 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position.
"We were fortunate tonight," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "We gave them a lot of baserunners."
The Angels added on in the seventh, thanks to an RBI double by Bobby Abreu.
The Rays' night ended in frustration, with B.J. Upton getting ejected in the ninth by home-plate umpire Mark Wegner and Carl Crawford grounding into a game-ending double play, his first of the season in 239 at-bats.
Said Maddon: "There were so many things that could have gone our way, that did not."
Joe Smith can be reached at email@example.com.