ST. PETERSBURG — As the Rays dressed and packed and tried to explain their latest disappointment, a 2-1 Sunday loss to Seattle that wrapped what was supposed to be a momentum-generating homestand at a sputtering 4-6, the most prevalent word, in various forms, was frustration.
The fans showed it. The manager acknowledges it. The players feel it.
"I think we're all frustrated at this point," centerfielder B.J. Upton said.
And as they head out for a nine-game country-crossing road trip that takes them through the July 31 deadline for nonwaiver trades, the biggest issue might be how the bosses in the front office react to it.
Will they stick with the status quo, banking on the eventual return of injured third baseman Evan Longoria to improve their impotent offense? Make a deal to enhance their chances by bringing in a much-needed bat? Or decide to look, at least somewhat, to the future, and deal one or several of their current key players to fill other holes?
"I don't want to see this team dismantled like, 'Okay, it's over guys.' I don't want that. I want to give this a shot," first baseman Carlos Peña said.
"Yes, we're getting punched around, and it hurts. But I feel like if we survive this round and go take a little break, get some water, put a little bit of ice on our foreheads and black eyes, and just come back, maybe we'll land a great punch, and next thing you know we've stung the opponent and we're on top. That's what I'm looking for."
Manager Joe Maddon remains optimistic as well, confident that their standing in the AL wild-card race — 2½ games out despite dropping to 49-47 — will encourage them to seek help rather than break up what they have, even as top scouts from teams such as the Angels and Tigers hovered at the Trop this weekend.
"I think we definitely want to try to be additive about the whole thing because we have a solid chance to do this," Maddon said.
"It's no time to give up, it's no time to start crying. It's a difficult moment because we really did not take advantage of some pretty good opportunities over the last couple days."
The core issue remains scoring more runs. They were held to 33 on the homestand, hitting only .180 with runners in scoring position.
Sunday made it two straight days they produced only one run, a strong start by rookie Matt Moore wasted as they were shackled for eight innings by Seattle's pedestrian Blake Beavan, who had allowed 22 runs and 30 hits over his previous 19 innings. "We should not permit that to happen," Maddon said.
But the manager acknowledged there isn't much else they can do, except hope and wait.
"You could rearrange the chairs on the deck but, honestly, I don't see many options available to us right now," Maddon said. "If you break it down, you could talk about a lot of good things a lot of the guys have been doing. It's just as a group it's been frustrating."
"It's the same old story," outfielder Matt Joyce said. "We've got to find a way to score runs. I don't know. I really don't have an answer. I think everybody's kind of in the same mind-set where we're just kind of waiting for something to come along or hoping some hits come or something. We've got to find a way to score runs — however."
Frustrating, to say the least.
Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected]