CLEVELAND — After another lifeless loss, 3-1 to the Indians on Thursday, this could be the absolute best way to sum up how bad the Rays are going offensively:
Luke Scott broke the franchise record for futility by going hitless in three at-bats to run his streak to 0-for-39 and — while also spending nearly three weeks on the disabled list — still shares the team lead with 36 RBIs.
"It's humbling, and it's very difficult," Scott said. "It's caused me a lot of sleepless nights and a lot of tears. It really does hurt. It's cut my heart in two."
Scott — seven hitless at-bats from the major-league record set last year by Eugenio Velez of the Dodgers — isn't the only issue with the Rays lineup, which continues to sputter and stall without outfielder Matt Joyce, who had a setback in his rehab, and third baseman Evan Longoria.
Thursday was the 10th time in 11 games the Rays scored four or fewer runs and ninth time this season they've been held to one or no runs. They've hit .209 during the stretch and .167 with runners in scoring position.
As a result, they've lost eight of those 11 and 15 of their past 23 to drop to 43-40.
Part of the problem is the players manager Joe Maddon has available — further reduced with Jeff Keppinger and Hideki Matsui limited to reserve duty Thursday. The other is how little the ones he's using are producing.
"Up and down the lineup, guys just have to pick it up a little bit," Maddon said.
Jeremy Hellickson made the start, which was something of a victory as he was knocked down then out of his last start Saturday after being hit on the right shin by a line drive. Hellickson said he felt fine but quickly put the Rays in what these days looks like a massive hole — allowing solo homers in the first (to leadoff man Shin-Soo Choo) and the second (Mickey Brantley).
"I've just got to come out and make better pitches early," he said.
Maddon found some reason for optimism in the number of balls the Rays hit hard, especially Ben Zobrist and Carlos Peña. And some compassion for Scott, lauding him for maintaining control of his emotions and remaining a good teammate.
"It's going to turn," Maddon said. "And when it does turn, there's going to be a lot of positives coming our way."
With Scott coming in hitless in his past 36 at-bats, one shy of the franchise record set by outfielder Jose Cruz in 2004, Maddon tried to help, giving the usual DH his first start of the season at first base, hoping it would help to feel like "more of a complete ballplayer."
But Scott, whose last hit was June 1, grounded out in the second to tie the team mark, popped out to the catcher in the fourth to set it and flied to right in the seventh to extend it.
Scott, whose previous worst was 0-for-21 in 2005, said he prays daily for relief from his struggles and has been stung by myriad thoughts, feelings and emotions, disappointed personally and frustrated about letting the team down.
Before the game, he said if he wasn't a Christian, he'd "be an alcoholic or something" as a result of the struggles. After, he said, "I'd rather take a beating one day and be laying bleeding on the street … than go through what I'm going through."