ST. PETERSBURG — Rays president Matt Silverman was openly critical of the Tampa Bay fans and market after Tuesday's opening game of the World Series rematch series with the Phillies drew fewer than 20,000.
The Rays players didn't exactly show up, either.
After saying for days the chance to avenge their October defeat was no big deal, the Rays went out and played like it in a 10-1 loss that ranks as one of their worst efforts of the season.
Rookie David Price put them in a 6-0 hole in a brutal 40-pitch first, they made three errors and a few other misplays and they did little offensively against crafty veteran Jamie Moyer and his assortment of 80 mph offerings.
"We got mauled," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "We brought it on ourselves, and they beat us. I don't want anybody to think about that. It's the anomaly game, just file it and move on."
Little went right, apart from Jason Bartlett extending his hitting streak to 17 games, one shy of the team record, as the Rays dropped to 37-35 and the Phillies snapped a six-game losing streak.
"Overall I don't think we played a very good baseball game," Evan Longoria said.
Pat Burrell, in his first game against his ex-mates, went 0-for-3 with a walk.
Longoria got them off to the bad start, throwing the ball away on Jimmy Rollins' game-opening grounder, and Carlos Peña and B.J. Upton made later errors.
Price, despite feeling "the best I felt all year" and thinking his stuff was equally as good, turned in a performance in his sixth start he called, among other things, unacceptable and ridiculous, allowing 10 runs (five earned) in 41/3 innings: "I put that one on me."
Maddon also put some blame on the fans, noting that the most of the Tropicana Field crowd of 19,608 (smallest, by far, for a Series rematch game in major-league history) was in red.
"The mood lighting was not very good tonight," he said. "It's kind of awkward when you get to this point and all of a sudden the majority of the crowd is for the other side."
The Rays expected more, and better, and with crowds of around 20,000 expected tonight and Thursday, Silverman spoke out.
"As we were planning for the season, we circled this series as one of the most compelling of the year," he said. "It's a rare privilege to host a rematch of the World Series, especially against a team with local connections. Based on all the information we had, we projected full houses. It's a huge miss."
Silverman said team officials are perplexed why attendance hasn't been better: The Rays are averaging 22,703, which ranks in the bottom third of the AL and the majors. Their goal for the season was to be around the major-league average, which was 29,562 entering play Tuesday.
"Quite frankly, we don't know what to attribute it to, but it's not just the economy," he said. "It's bewildering. There seems to be great affection for the team and excitement for the '09 campaign, but it's not showing up at the gate at all."
In six previous Series rematch seasons, the smallest crowd was 37,700 (for an Astros-at-White Sox game) and the average attendance 46,868.
"A matchup of World Series teams would clearly have drawn a good deal better in every other baseball market," Silverman said.
Marc Topkin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.