KANSAS CITY, Mo.— As the Rays have struggled to score runs over the last few weeks, the point has been made several times that the extended and widespread slump has left hitters pressing and trying to do too much.
Now it's affecting the pitchers.
Starter Andy Sonnanstine said after another abysmal offensive effort resulted in a 6-1 loss to the Royals and a disappointing split of the four-game series what others had to be thinking: the lack of hitting also makes it tougher to pitch.
"I think I had to throw a shutout to get a win today; it's tough to win with one run," Sonnanstine said. "Lately, yes, there is a little bit more pressure to do well."
The Rays (61-43) remained atop the AL East, with a one-game lead over the Red Sox and three over the Yankees, but hardly comfortable as they wrestle with what, if anything, to do about their stunning lack of offense.
In their last 17 games, they've scored only 47 runs, an average of just 2.76 per game. They've compiled a meager .214 average. And they've hit just .148 (19-for-128) with runners in scoring position.
And they're 6-11.
Manager Joe Maddon will talk today by telephone with executive vice president Andrew Friedman about trade possibilities in advance of Thursday's deadline for nonwaiver deals.
But help is not necessarily readily available, with several of the potential reinforcements traded elsewhere and the price for others seemingly exorbitant. So they may have to continue to wait for the players they have, such as Carl Crawford, Carlos Pena and B.J. Upton, to improve.
"You think you're coming out," Maddon said. "Carlos looks better, Carl's been better, (Evan Longoria)'s been hot. It's showing signs. We just couldn't piece it together today. … We just have to clump it up a little bit more consistently. I can't say that they're awful; we're getting better."
The Rays lost Sunday because Sonnanstine, while pitching well overall with more aggressiveness in his delivery and life on his pitches, allowed three early runs.
And because reliever Al Reyes didn't pitch well, coming in with two on and two outs in the seventh, getting ahead of Billy Butler 0-and-2, but after a stolen base and a wild pitch, getting to a full count and giving up a three-run home run.
But it was just as much about how they earlier failed to go ahead, or at least tie, given a prime opportunity in the sixth, down 3-0 at the time. An Upton walk, stolen base (his 31st), wild pitch and Crawford single gave them a run, and Longoria's double gave them a chance for more with men on second and third with no outs.
But the Royals went to lefty reliever Ron Mahay, and the Rays' hopes went away, without even a ground ball or sac fly.
Pena, who otherwise had a great series (7-for-14), struck out. Willy Aybar, down to .224 with a 4-for-39 skid, popped out to second. Pinch-hitter Jonny Gomes, hitting .194, jumped on the first pitch and flied to left.
"There's something to be said for rallies in baseball," Pena said. "And we're not rallying. We're not taking advantage of that momentum and scoring some runs when the rally seems apparent."
That's been very apparent.
Marc Topkin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org