ST. PETERSBURG — Rays CF Desmond Jennings can't catch a break.
Or a ball.
Jennings has made a series of uncharacteristic mistakes in the field over the past couple of weeks that have cost the Rays significantly and rattled his confidence.
"I don't know what it is, actually,'' Jennings said. "It's a bad time to be playing bad, I guess.''
Jennings dropped a fly ball in the eighth inning Friday in Seattle that led to two decisive runs, then didn't catch Mike Napoli's fifth-inning drive Tuesday, leading to Boston's two runs. Having made one error from the start of 2012 until August, he has made three since coming off the disabled list Aug. 19, though one, from an Aug. 27 game, was changed to a hit. (Plus he's hitting only .175 since then.)
"He's had some plays recently, there's no question,'' manager Joe Maddon said. "We need to stay with him. I need to speak with him, just in a positive way. He's trying very hard. You can see him grinding it out at the plate. It's awkward and unusual to see because he's so good out there. And we'll get him back right.''
Maddon said he plans to keep Jennings in the lineup unless there is a better matchup offensively. Options include Sam Fuld, Wil Myers and David DeJesus.
CRAIN TRAIN: After taking a long time for his shoulder to feel better, RHP Jesse Crain is making quick progress toward finally pitching for the Rays.
Crain had a second strong bullpen session Tuesday — throwing 36 pitches, including sliders and changeups — and if he feels good today, there is talk of accelerating his schedule to next face hitters in a simulated game Friday.
"We're getting close," Crain said. "It's very encouraging."
The All-Star reliever was acquired from the White Sox on July 29 while on the disabled list with a strained shoulder. He rehab seemed to hit a plateau in August but the Rays feel even if he only makes it back for the last week or two he can be a valuable late-inning addition.
CROWD CONTROL: Though last in the majors in attendance, the Rays are hoping for some support from the crowd during their September stretch, though Tuesday's game, their first at home since Aug. 29, drew only 18,605. "I assume and I anticipate that our fans will be out in full effect today," 3B Evan Longoria said. "I think they're just as excited as we are to be home and to be in the middle of things in the middle of September."
HOLD THE DATE: The Rays will open next season at home against the Blue Jays on March 31 at 4:10 p.m. and will have the crowd-appeal benefit of three home weekend series vs. the Red Sox (May 23-25, July 25-27, Aug. 29-Sept. 1) and two with the Yankees (April 18-20, Aug. 15-17).
Matched with the NL Central for interleague play, the Rays will host the Brewers (July 28-30), Cardinals (June 10-11) and Pirates (June 23-25), plus the Marlins (June 4-5). They will visit the Cardinals (July 22-23), Cubs (Aug. 8-10) and Reds (April 11-13), plus the Marlins (June 2-3). For the full 2014 schedule, see tampabay.com/blogs/rays.
NOT-SO-MINOR MATTERS: Triple-A Durham wasted seven shutout innings by RHP Jake Odorizzi and lost 2-1 to Pawtucket (Red Sox) in the opener of the best-of-five International League championship, known as the Governor's Cup. RHP J.D. Martin starts Game 2 tonight.
MISCELLANY: LHP David Price's 127 pitches were most by a Ray under Maddon; RHP Victor Zambrano threw 128 in 2004. Price is the only pitcher in the majors this season to throw 92 (or more) strikes in eight innings. … DH Luke Scott started ahead of rookie OF Wil Myers because the Rays felt he matched up better. … Boston RHP Koji Uehara has now retired 31 straight batters. … The Rays will keep their rotation in order for the weekend series in Minnesota, starting RHP Chris Archer on Friday, LHP Matt Moore Saturday, LHP David Price Sunday.