ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays' six-game win streak ended in convincing fashion Friday, a 9-3 loss to the Indians.
With the second-best record in the American League, the Rays (52-34) couldn't keep up with the AL's second-worst team as the Indians hit three home runs in handing Tampa Bay its most lopsided loss in six weeks.
As for the crowd of 23,116, well, at least they had the postgame concert from rapper Vanilla Ice.
"We had plenty of opportunities to score a lot of runs. We had a lot of people on base," said manager Joe Maddon, whose team stranded 11 runners, one off a season high.
Starter James Shields (7-9) lost for the eighth time in nine starts, struggling through a 31-pitch second inning then giving up solo home runs to Jayson Nix and Shelley Duncan in the fifth and seventh, respectively.
"The second inning came down to a balk and a wild pitch," said Shields, who had a quality start — six innings or more with three runs or fewer — until the second home run.
"That was pretty much the game right there. I've got to do a better job of bearing down in that situation."
Shields is 0-5 in six starts at home since beating the A's on April 28, and he's 0-4 in six career starts against the Indians.
Still, the Rays trailed just 4-2 in the eighth. But the Indians broke it open on Jhonny Peralta's three-run homer off Andy Sonnanstine. The bullpen, which gave up five runs on seven hits, made the Rays' inability to hit in clutch situations less of an issue.
The Rays went 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position. Matt Joyce grounded out with two on in the first. Reid Brignac grounded into an inning-ending double play with two on in the sixth, and John Jaso struck out looking on three pitches with the bases loaded in the seventh.
"Unfortunately, we hit balls right at people with runners on. A couple steps to the left or right, maybe it's a different story," said Brignac, who made two leaping catches at shortstop early to keep runs off the scoreboard.
First baseman Carlos Peña hit the ball well with an RBI single in the third and his team-best 18th home run with two outs in the ninth, and B.J. Upton also had two of the team's six hits.
It's only the third time all season Tampa Bay has lost by more than five runs. Five of the Rays' past six losses had been by one run.
A win would have matched the Rays' longest win streak of the season and matched another season high at 20 games over .500. Instead the loss, coupled with Boston's 14-3 drubbing of Toronto, means the Rays are just two games up on the Red Sox for second place in the AL East —and in the wild card — with two games left before the All-Star break.
Peña said the remaining two games before the break are important as the Rays look to carry momentum from their recent strong play.
"It's just a loss. You brush your shoulders off and come back," Peña said.
"We're going to go home, renew ourselves and come back as fresh as possible."