ST. PETERSBURG — As the signs of sluggishness offset any sign of life Tuesday at Tropicana Field, one had to presume the momentum the Rays seized over the weekend in Miami got stranded somewhere on Alligator Alley.
Instead of building on their four-game win streak and run-scoring resurgence, the Rays (35-26) got flustered early and pummeled late. By night's end, Hideki Matsui's birthday and another solid outing by 24-year-old right-hander Alex Cobb had been spoiled in an 11-2 defeat to the Mets.
A six-run seventh, capped by first baseman Ike Davis' three-run homer to right on a 3-and-2 pitch from J.P. Howell, gave the Mets (33-29) a 9-2 lead and essentially sealed things before an audience of 17,334.
"That was a clunker tonight," said manager Joe Maddon, whose club now has five times as many multi-error games (15) as it did this time in 2011.
"I thought Cobber was really good. Outside of that, we did not catch the ball early. We had our chances offensively, we did not do a good job with that. It was just kind of a flat game for us, but Alex was good."
The Mets' run total was a season high and one more than the Rays allowed in their previous four contests. The five runs given up by Tampa Bay's bullpen were two more than it surrendered in the 181/3 innings it logged on the just-completed road trip.
All on a night in which Maddon momentarily spurned sabermetrics. When determining his DH, Maddon crunched only the number 38 — the age Matsui turned Tuesday.
Matsui responded with a bases-loaded single off the rightfield wall in the first, scoring the first of the Rays' two runs in the inning.
But even that was tarnished — only one run scored due to shoddy baserunning — in an otherwise dreadful inning that commenced with two Rays errors.
Mets DH Jordany Valdespin, who had reached first on a fielder's choice and stole second, scored when David Wright's routine grounder to shortstop slithered beneath Elliot Johnson.
It was the only run the Mets scored with less than two out.
"They're pretty much routine plays that we've been having a hard time with and we have to be better there," Maddon said. "That's not who we are and that's what's getting us behind the eight-ball a bit."
Meantime, the Rays struggled to piece together timely hits against 6-foot-10 right-hander Chris Young. In his second start since right shoulder surgery 13 months ago, Young held the Rays in check with a velocity — low 80s — belying his vertical stature.
Similarly, Cobb shined for the better part of 109 pitches and 62/3 innings.
"Stuff-wise, I felt great," he said. "I definitely think my fastball location was the best it has been all year."
Cobb retired nine in a row before giving up three straight hits in the fifth, the last of them Valdespin's two-out single that gave the Mets a 3-2 lead. His seventh-inning double made it 4-2.
Cobb intentionally walked Wright before being relieved by Howell, who promptly gave up three hits including Davis' homer.
"It was just one of those nights. It worked for them, it didn't work for us," Maddon said. "I just a couple of days ago talked about maybe we played our best game of the season in Miami. We possibly played our worst game of the season tonight at home."