Saturday, December 16, 2017
Tampa Bay Rays

Slumping Rays clobbered by Angels

ANAHEIM, Calif. — There are different ways to measure the staggering lack of production from the Rays offense that threatens to strangle their hopes of making the playoffs.

Consider this epic performance in Monday's 11-2 ugly loss:

Angels starter Garrett Richards walked seven — yes, seven — in a four-inning span and the Rays got exactly none of them home.

None.

Combined with a markedly ineffective start by rookie Chris Archer, and a bad night by a now taxed bullpen — so much so that outfielder Sam Fuld pitched in the eighth inning — and the result was another night of frustration and blank stares after the nearly four-hour debacle.

"We're just unable to come up with a big hit,'' manager Joe Maddon said.

The sinking Rays lost for the fifth straight time (while scoring seven runs) and eighth in their past nine games (scoring 19 total), dropping to 75-61. They wasted a chance to gain a game on the American League East-leading Red Sox, who lost, remaining 5½ back. They are now 31/2 games behind the wild card-leading A's/Rangers, and, of increasing importance, only two ahead of the Orioles, and 2½ of the Yankees, for the final wild-card spot.

"It's September - you have to win games in September,'' Ben Zobrist said. "There's still a lot of time left. We just need to turn it around tomorrow. That's the No. 1 goal right now. Win tomorrow.''

There really isn't much Maddon can do about it, acknowledging that the hitters are "pressing" and encouraging then to relax, to "try easier," to play carefree like when they were kids, confident, as always, they will rebound.

"When Winston Churchill was managing the London Fogs in the British Rounder League I think at one time he said, "When you're going through hell, just keep on going,' '' Maddon said. "And that's about all we can do right now.'

The lack of offense has been the primary problem for the Rays, so it seemed promising when No. 2 hitting Zobrist went deep in the first inning to put the Rays up 1-0.

But the lead didn't last long, nor did the reason for hope that the hitters had come around.

The Rays had the bases loaded in the second with two outs and David DeJesus grounded out. They had two on with two outs in the fourth and Yunel Escobar struck out. They had two on with one out in the fifth but Matt Joyce flied out, then bases loaded with two outs and Wil Myers struck out - on a pitch that was clearly out of the zone.

"We've got to get the big hit when we need it, and we haven't been doing that,'' Zobrist said.

The Rays had lost only twice in their 16-season history to pitchers who walked seven or more against them. Once was former teammate Edwin Jackson, who put eight on in his 2010 no-hitter; the other was Dan Wright of the White Sox, who walked seven in a 2001 game. And now Richards, who threw 103 pitches in his five innings, and 51 were called balls, while allowing only two hits.

Archer has been talking excitedly about the opportunity to pitch in meaningful September games after being more of a spectator last year, and had the added confidence of dominating the Angels in his last start.

That didn't translate to success, as Archer was knocked out in the fourth inning Monday, having allowed season high-matching numbers: five runs on nine hits. He wasn't hit particularly hard, but on a steamy southern California night he was hit often and wasn't sharp, needing 90 pitches to get 11 outs.

"It's a little disheartening because it's a game we really needed to win,'' Archer said. "When I take the mound I don't expect to just be quality, and I definitely don't expect to go less than four innings.''

And his early departure put a heavy load on a bullpen already taxed by the decision to skip Roberto Hernandez on Sunday and use seven relievers in that game. The Rays had to use four more Monday and go into tonight hoping to get five innings out of starter Matt Moore, and have more uncertainty Wednesday when they will start Jeremy Hellickson, who was struggling mightily before having his last start skipped.

Fuld hit 86 mph four times and 87 once, getting J.B. Shuck to fly out to end the eighth.

He was the third position player in team history to pitch, following Wade Boggs (1999) and Josh Wilson (2007). Fuld warmed up during a 2011 game in Milwaukee, but Maddon was using him as a decoy and replaced him before he threw a pitch, leading MLB to revise its rules.

Fuld said he was caught a bit off-guard, figuring "there's no way" with expanded September rosters he'd actually get to pitch; Maddon didn't want Josh Lueke to go past 50 pitches and thought bringing in Fuld would "boost morale somehow.'

Fuld said he was perfectly calm warming up in the bullpen and pretty much a total mess when he got to the mound.

"It all happened so quickly,'' he said. "Once I got out on the mound I just realized there was a lot of stuff I had to figure out how to do - like putting my foot on the rubber, when to step off, whether to work out of the stretch,''

As much of a novelty as it was, Fuld - who figured he last pitched as a high school junior in 1999 - sounded like he had enough, laughing when someone pointed out he now had a better career ERA than Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax.

"And I'm going to sit on it, too,'' he said. "Hopefully it's the last time. ... I feel like my career is complete now.''

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