ST. PETERSBURG — Saturday's game at Tropicana Field was played without incident or interruption as a rumored onfield demonstration by protestors related to the Republican National Convention never materialized.
The Rays kept pretty quiet themselves.
Ending a stretch of playing 19 consecutive days, the Rays looked in need of today's unusual Sunday off in an uninspired 4-2 loss to the A's.
"The guys have been playing hard for a while," manager Joe Maddon said. "There's been no off days. I don't have — there's no finger-pointing or blame. We just have to move beyond this."
The second straight loss to Oakland dropped the Rays to 70-57, reducing their lead in the wild-card race to one-half game. They remained 31/2 behind the division-leading Yankees.
The way the matinee began, with Jeremy Hellickson laboring through a 22-minute, 41-pitch first inning, it looked like it would be the rare occasion when the Rays were done in by bad pitching.
But when Hellickson limited the damage to three runs, and another in the fourth, and the bullpen shut down the final four frames, it evolved into the familiar storyline of their good pitching not supported by the offense, particularly under the Trop's tilted roof.
"The superlatives are all out there," Maddon said. "It's wonderful. It's unique. You don't see this kind of pitching, maybe once every century or so. It's outstanding and I love it.
"I've always talked about wasting good pitching being a borderline mortal sin if you happen to be Catholic. So we have to do a better job of scoring points. We just have to."
They had several chances before the docile gathering of 18,187, most promising in the second inning when they loaded the bases against Oakland's Brandon McCarthy with no outs. But after Jose Lobaton's sac fly made it 3-1, they went quickly, Desmond Jennings flying out and Sam Fuld striking out.
Carlos Peña was among the Rays saying McCarthy was better than he looked, keeping them off-balance with an assortment of pitches and speeds. Though normally otherwise pedestrian, McCarthy is in the club of pitchers whom the Rays make look dominant, as he is 3-0, 0.76 in his past five starts against them.
"He's got our swing path number," Maddon said. "It's incredible. He misses our bats."
As rough as Hellickson's first inning went, he was only upset about one pitch, the fat changeup that Chris Carter crushed for a two-run homer with two outs.
"First and third with no outs, I did a good job limiting the damage," Hellickson said. "Then to make a pitch like that when I could have gotten out of it, it's pretty frustrating."
With the Rays going 14-5 during the stretch that included a cross-country trip, Maddon said he was more focused on the big picture than the one loss.
And, with no incidents on the eve of the RNC welcome party at the Trop despite concerns that led to a team briefing by the Secret Service, he considered the overall day a success.
"We served as a training ground for them, I'm sure," Maddon said. "So that's the positive for today, we helped out the Secret Service."
Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected]