MIAMI — Several Rays talked before Tuesday's game about how they remain confident and determined despite all the misery and how mystified they are to be going through it.
"This is probably one of the best teams we've had on paper," third baseman Evan Longoria said. "I think that's one of the things that's kind of baffling to us, why we're not doing it."
A few hours later they had the latest illustration, capping what officially was the worst road trip in franchise history by losing their eighth straight, with another stupefying, how-did-they-do-that 1-0 loss to the Marlins.
Consider that the only run they gave up came on a bases-loaded walk by Chris Archer, who had been ahead 0-and-2, and after a single by opposing pitcher Henderson Alvarez.
And that a prime opportunity to tie in the eighth disappeared when catcher Jose Molina, on his 39th birthday, dropped a bunt that bounced off the plate and turned into a double play.
"That pretty much summarizes what's been going on lately," manager Joe Maddon said.
The eight-game losing streak is the Rays' longest since an 11-game skid in September 2009 and dropped them to 23-36, with just the Cubs keeping them from the majors' worst record.
"It just (stinks)," Molina said. "There's no other way you can explain it."
Archer overall pitched a strong game, and the Rays played some defense behind him.
But the primary problem continues to be an inept and impotent offense, which has totaled two runs in four games and six in the past six, magnifying every mistake and missed pitch. They have been shut out an AL-most seven times.
"We just have to swing the bats, we have to score more runs," Maddon said. "You have to hide a few of your blemishes. There's got to be some Clearasil out there somewhere for us."
Instead they are showing flaws everywhere. Repeated opportunities are wasted, as they are 0-for-their-last-22 with runners in scoring position. Risky (desperate?) chances are being taken on the bases, such as Yunel Escobar trying to steal when Alvarez had his back turned, a close-enough-to-challenge call short-circuiting another rally. And small pitching mistakes create large holes they can't escape.
Following four quick frames, Archer found trouble in the fifth. After two singles and two strikeouts, he allowed a bases-loading single to Alvarez. "You never want to do that," Archer said.
Archer quickly got ahead of Christian Yelich but couldn't put him away, running the count full. Then Archer threw a slider that was just outside, a call by umpire Vic Carapazza he first clearly disagreed with but later praised.
"Instead of executing a pitch and letting him put it in play, I put it in the umpire's hands, and turned out he made a great call," Archer said. "I should have thrown it over the plate. I shouldn't have been in a 3-2 situation."
The result was another entry in how the Rays have found ways to lose, the second time in franchise history 1-0 on a bases-loaded walk. (Seth McClung, June 26, 2005, vs. the Marlins.)
"Very difficult," Maddon summarized, which said a lot.