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Tampa Bay Rays fall to 0-5 with 5-1 loss to Los Angeles Angels

ST. PETERSBURG

Outfielder Matt Joyce joked with B.J. Upton that they should make a sacrifice to the baseball gods "just to get things going our way."

Praying for a few hits couldn't hurt, either.

The Rays completed a forgettable and frustrating homestand Wednesday with a 5-1 loss to the Angels in front of an announced 11,836 at Tropicana Field. The defending AL East champs lost all five games (three to Orioles, two to Angels) — having never led in any of them — and became the second team since 1920 to have five hits or fewer in each of their first five games of the season, joining the 2003 Tigers, who finished 43-119.

"I think a lot of us have gotten to the point where we're like, 'All right, when is it going to stop?' " Upton said.

The Rays say they're not pushing the panic button, but they admit they've been pressing as they head out on a challenging and cold seven-game road trip to Chicago and Boston shocked to be sitting in last place, 41/2 games behind Baltimore pending the Orioles' night game against Detroit.

"To start the season 0-5, I don't think anybody would have predicted that, so you have to be a little stunned," Joyce said. "It's frustrating. It's disheartening. And everything in between."

One bright spot has been the Rays' starting pitching, and they wasted an impressive outing by rookie right-hander Jeremy Hellickson on Wednesday. Hellickson had a career-high 10 strikeouts over 52/3 innings, the most by a Rays pitcher in a season debut. Hellickson made just a few mistakes in allowing three runs, including a solo homer by Alberto Callaspo.

"He was outstanding," manager Joe Maddon said. "If you look at his line you would think that guy would have gotten the win today."

But if you look at the hitters' lines for the Rays, you'd see why Hellickson didn't. Other than Upton, who homered for the second straight day and has hits in each of the first five games, and reserve outfielder Sam Fuld (the only other player with a multi-hit game this year), the Rays' bats are drawing blanks.

The Rays are hitting a major-league-low .136, and it's a group effort. Maddon may have sat Manny Ramirez (1-for-17) Wednesday because he felt the slugger was pressing, but he's not alone. Dan Johnson is 1-for-19. Joyce is 1-for-14, with Johnny Damon 1-for-15. Ben Zobrist is 3-for-17. And injured All-Star third baseman Evan Longoria won't be back for at least three weeks.

Maddon said the Rays are playing "good baseball" and he likes their effort, how they work at-bats and how they're playing defense (third baseman Felipe Lopez's throwing error Wednesday aside). But it has been frustrating and puzzling why the whole lineup is struggling, especially at home. He said he wants his players to "try easier" at the plate, back off a little bit mentally and ride it out.

"This is an abnormally low end of hitting," Maddon said. "It's a little bit more difficult. You'll see moments like this, but not this many games in a row with just one (run) and a couple knocks."

The Rays say they keep hitting balls at defenders and find themselves a little unlucky (see: Jeff Mathis' double off Joyce's outstretched glove in rightfield in the sixth). But as Damon says, "We need to stop trying to find the breaks; we have to create them."

"At some point, it's going to turn," Upton said. "Things can't keep going the way they're going."

Joe Smith can be reached at joesmith@sptimes.com.

Tampa Bay Rays fall to 0-5 with 5-1 loss to Los Angeles Angels 04/06/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 6, 2011 10:04pm]
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