BALTIMORE — The shortcomings of their injury-depleted lineup have been the Rays' primary problem through a losing streak that grew to 10 games Saturday with a doubleheader sweep by the Orioles.
The 5-0 loss in the opener proved to be an essential example, as they were held to just four singles for the afternoon. But their 8-6 loss in the nightcap came with a maddening twist, as they built a 4-0 lead by the third, and rebuilt it to 6-3 in the fifth, only to watch their pitchers fail to hold it. In other words, nothing works.
"That's the sign of a team that's in a pretty bad funk right now," manager Kevin Cash said. "And the only way you get out of that is to win a ball game, win a couple ball games."
The 10-game skid, dropping the Rays to 31-42, is their longest since mid 2014, though still a few more agonizing days from the team record of 15.
With their scoreless streak at 17 innings after the matinee, the Rays got four in the first three innings of the nightcap, led by Logan Morrison, who had a three-hit night, and Hank Conger.
But they lost a chance to break it open when centerfielder Adam Jones made a diving catch with the bases loaded to end the third, which proved pivotal.
"Maybe the play of the game," Cash said.
The Orioles closed to within 4-3. The Rays stretched the lead to 6-3. The Orioles homered their way back to 6-5 in the sixth and chased starter Jake Odorizzi. They went ahead in the seventh against relievers Erasmo Ramirez and Xavier Cedeno.
"I'll take the blame for the loss," Odorizzi said. "I kind of left the bullpen out to dry. It was a bad time for a bad game when the team is really scuffling and we had a lead."
Through the 10-game streak, the Rays have scored just 24 runs and hit .210. The lack of production has been a reflection of the current product.
Consider that the Rays have DH Steve Pearce and starting outfielders Brandon Guyer, Kevin Kiermaier and Steven Souza Jr., plus reserve Mikie Mahtook, on the disabled list. And that Twins castoff Oswaldo Arcia, who debuted Saturday, has been the only external addition.
That forces Cash to fill out a lineup card every game with several players who have spent at least part of the season at Triple A and haven't had much big-league time or success. (That those are his only choices seems an indictment of the draft and/or player development system and the front office, but that is a topic for another day.)
In Saturday's matinee, for example, they had Tim Beckham (hitting .200 at the time) sixth, Jaff Decker (.053) seventh and Taylor Motter (.182) eighth. Plus, Curt Casali (.164) was ninth.
"It's tough, there's no way around it right now," third baseman Evan Longoria said. "With the losses that we've had, you hate to make excuses, but we're asking a lot out of some guys that don't have a whole lot of experience at the major-league level. …
"We have to just trust in the process and trust that it's going to get better. We have some guys that are close to coming back. We have to just try and hold on and go out there and do what we can to try and win ball games with the guys that we have right now."
Cash made a point of noting how the players are remaining positive and how the veterans all wanted to play both games of the doubleheader, but he also acknowledged the reality.
"Obviously it's a tough thing," he said. "We've got to look at it as an opportunity for some of these guys to get more consistent playing time. Right now, we're not making the most of it."
In the 5-0 loss, the Rays were held to two hits through seven innings by Orioles right-hander Kevin Gausman. That would be the same Gausman who came in with an 0-5, 4.37 record overall and .356 batting average against over four previous June starts in which he went 0-2, 5.75.
Matt Andriese did a decent job of keeping the Rays in the game in making a spot start after throwing 36 pitches in relief Wednesday, allowing two runs while working 42/3 and throwing 78 pitches.
"It was kind of a quick turnaround in a sense as I threw a couple days ago," Andriese said. "I was just out there battling and throwing strikes, and I went as far as I could go."