ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays are certain there is nothing wrong with Wade Davis.
But it sure seems something isn't quite right.
Davis had another outing Saturday that at best could be described as inconsistent and unimpressive and was a major factor in their 6-0 loss to the Orioles.
That, and his teammates' stunning inability to mount any offense against Baltimore's Brad Bergesen, who not only hadn't won all year but hadn't lasted more than six innings and ended up with a complete game and the first shutout of the Rays this season. Bergesen allowed only four hits, none after the third inning.
"Their guy made us all look bad," manager Joe Maddon said.
As a byproduct, the Rays dropped back below .500 to 10-11 at Tropicana Field, continuing to play, particularly offensively, at a homefield disadvantage, disappointing a Darius Rucker concert night crowd of 28,481. They fell overall to 23-16, though still holding a two-game lead over the Yankees in the AL East.
The concerns over Davis come with a caveat, since he is still 4-3 with a respectable 3.47 ERA, and the Rays have won five of his eight starts.
But his strikeouts are down (23 in 491/3 innings, 4.19 per nine compared to 6.56 previously) and his walks are up (22), while his pitch counts are running high (99 or more in seven of his starts) and his outings short (fewer than seven innings six times).
Maddon insisted Davis is fine physically — "There's not a thing wrong with the guy" — and that his problems stem from a lack of fastball command, perhaps the result of trying to pitch more than throw.
"He's got to be able to throw his fastball for a strike more consistently," Maddon said. "That's the main culprit."
The cause is harder to identify. Mechanical issues may be a part of it, but Maddon pins it more on a tactical change, which the Rays can't seem to get Davis to abandon, specifically by encouraging him to throw his four-seam fastball more often.
"Honestly, to me, it's more intentional on his part: I'm going to throw this way as opposed to just let it loose on each pitch," Maddon said. "I think he's trying to pitch a little more than he had in the past. The results haven't been horrible to this point, and they weren't horrible (Saturday). It's just his fastball command is the issue for me."
Davis claimed the issues — "I'm not going to go as far as saying problems," he said — are minor and the necessary adjustments slight.
Saturday, for example, he felt it was just a couple of pitches — specifically the misplaced fastballs that Mark Reynolds and Jake Fox hit out of the park — that made for a bad day.
"One or two pitches can make a big difference," he said.
Davis, who signed a long-term deal that guarantees him $12.6 million over four seasons and with options could be worth $35.1 million over seven, said he has been building his arm strength and velocity into the season as planned and is confident there is little to be concerned about.
"There's no reason to panic right now at all," he said. "I feel good, everything's coming out good, it's just a matter of getting in a groove and getting in a better rhythm and getting some quick outs. …
"If I'm missing, I'm missing by just a little bit. It's not a huge adjustment, but it's an adjustment we're going to have to make: keep attacking hitters and mixing it up in a better way."
Marc Topkin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.