Saturday, June 23, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Bats come to life, but Rays' freefall continues (w/video)

ST. PETERSBURG —The six runs seemed like a ton, just the second time the Rays had scored that many in a game during their numbing two-plus-weeks stretch of offensive impotency, and amazingly, the first time at the Trop in nearly two months.

Typical of how bad things have been going for them, those runs came on a night their starting pitching, which had been so strong for so long, faltered badly. Jake Odorizzi put the Rays in a hole they couldn't quite escape in a 7-6 loss to the Mariners on Saturday.

More telling of their predicament — they have lost 12 of 15 and 21 of 30, dropping to 60-65 and closer to the fringe of a wild-card race that nobody can seem to fall out of (four games and six teams out) — the Rays latched on to the offensive resuscitation almost like a moral victory.

"The bats finally came to life,'' manager Kevin Cash said. "To me that's the story of the game. We lost. It stinks. But we needed to see some type of production, some type of positive performance from the offense, and I think we provided that.''

The Rays have been trying, somewhat desperately, to shake the extended offensive skid, in which they had scored a franchise-record-low 24 runs total over their previous 14 games.

Most notably Cash has been tinkering with the lineup. He made another change Saturday in saying the Rays had abandoned the experiment of hitting Evan Longoria second and returned him to his usual No. 3 spot, and planned to make Kevin Kiermaier the primary leadoff hitter.

Late Saturday, they tried something else, claiming outfielder Cesar Puello, a right-handed hitter with some speed and power, off waivers, with news of who is leaving coming today.

"It's been perplexing,'' Cash said before the game. "If we could pinpoint it, we wouldn't be going through it. Nobody has gone up there and changed the way they work. (Hitting coach) Chad Mottola hasn't changed the way he communicates. I don't feel like I have. It's just one of those ruts where there are a bunch of guys that are scuffling.''

Longoria took it to another level Saturday afternoon with a hopeful nod to late Rays icon Don Zimmer, stopping at the little Coney Island shop near the Trop to bring in his favorite chili dogs for some good luck indigestion.

Success? We'll see this afternoon. (Warning: Coney Island is closed on Sundays.)

The Rays found some further consolation in how they rallied from 4-1 and 7-2 deficits Odorizzi left them in over less than four innings to get within one swing of tying it. Steven Souza Jr. and Lucas Duda homered in the sixth (Souza's first of 26 off a lefty), then Logan Morrison had a pinch-hit blast one out into the ninth, his first homer since Aug. 2. It helped that the bullpen again threw zeroes and that shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria caught a ball that clanked off a catwalk and turned it into a double play.

"I like the way earlier in the game we get one, they go up four on the grand slam, we come right back and get another one,'' Cash said. "I like the way we went about it. We just came up short.''

It's understandable if Odorizzi doesn't want to see, hear or read anything ever about Seattle — good coffee and tasty seafood aside — having allowed 15 runs (10 earned) in two starts this season against the Mariners while lasting six innings total.

Saturday he simply had nothing — including excuses: "It's one of those days where I just didn't have it. My arm kind of felt dead. My body felt fine, but nothing coming out of it today. No life on the fastball, no feel for a release point. It's just one of those days where nothing was there, and there's no more to say than that.''

But that it came on a day when the offense came through made it worse.

"Absolutely,'' he said. "That's the way baseball goes. You have a string of good ones and no runs, and we have a bad one and we score runs. There's not really too much to look into, it's just another tease of being right on the doorstep.

"From my end, it's all on me. I'm accountable for it. No excuses. I didn't have it.''

The Rays headed out Saturday trying to convince themselves they were headed back in the right direction.

"Obviously there's a couple ways to look at it,'' said Morrison, who hit through back tightness. "We still lost. But the offense did show signs of coming around. And that's a good thing.''

Right now, it's about the best they've got.

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