Monday, February 19, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays lose to Dodgers, pull hidden ball trick

LOS ANGELES — At least the Rays are making their trip to Hollywood entertaining.

Friday it was high drama, as a six-run lead turned into a stunning defeat. Then Saturday, amid a 5-0 loss to the Dodgers that was Tampa Bay's fourth straight, emotion and outrage, leading to the ejection of third-base coach Tom Foley; and deceit and chicanery, pulling off a hidden-ball trick — in front of Fox's national TV cameras — as third baseman Evan Longoria nabbed Juan Uribe stepping off third base.

"About our only highlight of the day," Longoria said.

The monthlong hot streak seems months ago as the Rays have lost six of eight, dropping to 66-49 — three games behind the American League East-leading Red Sox — seeing their offense sputtering, their starting pitching again in flux and their bullpen in question.

"We've had a couple of tough losses, obviously (Friday) was tough, and we had another one we lost late in the game (at Arizona). Those are the things we're going to have to overcome," Longoria said.

"I think we've been lucky enough to have Boston kind of sputtering along with us. They haven't really gone out and won a whole ton of games and really buried us. So if we can get out of this soon, we're still in a good spot. … There's still plenty of baseball to be played as we are right now. We're definitely not playing up to our potential."

On Saturday, they were never really in the game.

Roberto Hernandez struggled again, allowing a two-run homer in the first then walking opposing starter Zack Greinke to set up a two-run third, and lasting only four innings, the fifth time in eight games the Rays starter hasn't gotten through five.

Hernandez (6-12, 4.95) didn't have the sink on his ball he needs to be successful, and he told manager Joe Maddon as much. "After the first inning everything was flat and up too much," Hernandez said.

With Alex Cobb set to come off the disabled list Thursday and Matt Moore perhaps only a few days later, Hernandez's spot in the rotation again appears in jeopardy, with a potential choice looming between him and rookie Chris Archer.

"We haven't decided anything with that yet," Maddon said. "Roberto had that really good game against Arizona, he pitched a complete game … so that was just a couple of starts ago, and then all of a sudden it's been a little more difficult."

The hitters, meanwhile, were stymied by Greinke, managing only six hits and getting only three runners past first, striking out nine times. A called strike three to end the sixth set off shortstop Yunel Escobar, which led to Foley's ejection.

Which really did leave the lone highlight the hidden ball trick in the fourth inning, as Longoria took a non­chalant toss from Escobar and sidled up behind Uribe coming off third base.

Still, Maddon, naturally, doesn't see it as any more than a bad few days, even with Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw looming tonight.

"I just think there were several games that we had a chance to win and we gave them up," he said. "That's not normally our DNA. We'll get back to being who we are. It's just that everything is not flowing as it had been. Happens. I'm not concerned. We'll be fine."

Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected]com. Follow him on Twitter at @TBTimes_Rays.

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