MIAMI — That 1-8 start might not be such a distant memory for the Rays after all.
After another dismal offensive showing in Saturday's 5-3 interleague loss to the Marlins, Rays manager Joe Maddon said they way they're hitting now - or, more accurately, not hitting now - is reminiscent of their early season ineptitude. Not coincidentally, they are in a 2-6 skid that has cost them their hold on first place.
"We've got to do better offensively," Maddon said. "If you look at the bad start that we went through, a lot of it was based on kind of the game you saw tonight - we weren't hitting. A lot of good things are happening, we just have to be more consistent at the plate."
The problem is that it has been nearly a team effort.
Which is how a starter like Florida's Javier Vazquez, who came in with a 7.55 ERA and actually had looked worse, could shut the Rays (25-21) down and shut them for seven innings, allowing only three hits. (And worse when their ace, David Price, put them in a 2-0 hole with a rough first inning, then allowed a two-run homer to light-hitting Omar Infante in the seventh.)
They finished, even after a bit of a madcap eighth-inning comeback that featured five pinch-hitters, scoring three runs and getting the tying run on, with five for the day.
That made it nine straight games without reaching double digits in hits, and obviously it's showing on the scoreboard as they've tallied three runs or less in seven of their last nine games. Also in their at-bats.
"I think we're all probably pressing a little too much," Johnny Damon said. "Some guys are struggling right now."
As much as Maddon like to tinker, there isn't much even he can do.
Sam Fuld continues to fizzle, his slump extending to his 10-for-86 and his average, which was at .350 less than a month ago, down to .229 and his playing time likely to be cut.
Ben Zobrist is in a 2-for-26 funk, hitless on the trip, and has one homer and three RBIs in May.
Evan Longoria is admittedly lost at the plate, chasing too many pitches, trying to do too much and getting nothing done, going 3-for-30 and without an RBI over his last eight games.
Reid Brignac, whose playing time has already been reduced, continues to flail, striking out 18 times in his last 58 at-bats, with six hits during that span and a .170 overall average.
And playing under NL rules this weekend, they have a pitcher hitting ninth.
"So," Maddon said, "that's like five guys that are not on top of their offensive games right now."
Actually, he missed a spot, as catchers John Jaso and Kelly Shoppach have a combined .191 average with four homers and 17 RBIs.
"We definitely need to get more hits," Johnny Damon said. "And get some hits from the big guys."
No one in the Rays lineup is a bigger star than Longoria, and his frustration was obvious talking about his performance since having a couple of good games after returning May 3 from the disabled list (strained oblique).
"It's as frustrating for me as it is for everybody else at this point," he said. "Eventually I'm going to hit. At some point. Hopefully sooner than later."
Maddon said he thinks Longoria is chasing too many pitches, making weak contact on pitches he shouldn't swing at rather than waiting for ones he can drive, and also is still showing some effects of his layoff.
But Longoria, hitting .211 with two homers and 8 RBIs through 20 games, said it's more about the pressure he's put on himself.
"I'm trying to do too many things, trying to make too many things happen at once," Longoria said. "And when something goes bad in the first at-bat or I feel something I haven't felt before, I'm just thinking too much instead of just going back to the simple approach that I've always had."
At this point, anything different can only help.
Marc Topkin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org