Tampa Bay Rays lose 6-1 to Oakland Athletics, fall to 1-4 on road trip

OAKLAND, Calif. — The footnotes to the night were historical, the Rays equaling the 1913-17 Washington Senators mark of 704 consecutive games started by pitchers under 30 and Johnny Damon matching Babe Ruth for 47th place on the all-time doubles list at 506.

They might as well celebrate the past, because their future doesn't look very good.

The Rays fell again, 6-1 to the A's on Tuesday, dropping 10½ games from the first-place Red Sox in the AL East and 8½ behind the wild card-leading Yankees and hardly looking like they're going to do anything about it.

They've lost 10 of their past 14 games, including four of five thus far to the Royals and A's on a road trip that was supposed to reverse their slide, and are 53-49 with 60 games left.

"It's no fun,'' manager Joe Maddon said.

"We just need to play better,'' said starter David Price.

"It's been very frustrating,'' Damon said. "Because we feel like we have a very good team here, and a bunch of the games we've been losing lately have been close, they've been hard losses, and if we could score another run or two in a bunch of the losses we've had recently we'd definitely be in much better shape.''

The offense was obviously the primary problem again, as only Ben Zobrist's one-out homer in the eighth — giving him a major league-leading 51 extra-base hits — kept them from being shut out for the 10th time in their past 48 games, and 11th overall.

"The lack of offense popped up and beat us again,'' Maddon said. "(A's starter Brandon McCarthy) pitched well. We didn't really have a whole lot going on tonight.''

The Rays had only seven hits, and none when it mattered most. The 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position made then 1-for-20 in Oakland and 9-for-60 (.150) on the road trip. "That's been one of our biggest drawbacks all season,'' Maddon said.

Price didn't pitch badly, allowing four runs on seven hits and four walks, but as has been one of their more recent problems, he didn't pitch enough, lasting only six innings as he rang up 105 pitches.

"The whole thing was frustrating,'' said Price, who fell to 9-9, 3.76 overall and is 1-3, 5.04 in five July starts. "I felt all right. I don't know. It's just not there right now. I've got to get back to form. It's getting old.'

That forced the Rays to further tax their weary and short-handed bullpen, with newcomer Jay Buente, who arrived in the dugout in the fifth after flying from Durham, N.C., to Miami to San Francisco, taking over in the seventh and allowing two more.

Price gave up single runs in the third-sixth innings, the first two on sac flies that scored runners who walked, the third on a double by Hideki Matsui, the fourth on a two-out double by Cliff Pennington.

Price went into the game hopeful to get the Rays turned around.

"We need to start winning," he said Monday. "We need to put some games together, some series together, and hopefully mix in some sweeps. In order for us to get back in this thing we have to start winning some more ballgames. I feel like everybody in here knows that, and I feel everybody in here knows we can all step it up a little bit. We need to win."

With Price's first pitch, the Rays equaled the mark of the Walter "Big Train" Johnson-led Senators and are set to break it tonight with 29-year-old James Shields on the mound. The accomplishment is somewhat novel, but the Rays are proud of it, primarily because they have been successful during the stretch, a 377-327 record (.536) that is fifth best in the majors in that span.

The streak is the product of several factors — the pitchers' performance, the front office's philosophies, and the scouting and player development departments. "I think it's pretty awesome actually," Maddon said.

But Maddon said the biggest key may be the training staff, headed by Ron Porterfield, as they used only 14 starters during the span that dates to May 25, 2007 — and two of those, Casey Fossum and Mitch Talbot, for only one game each.

Damon has been moving up the alltime lists for both hits and doubles. His biggest accomplishment thus far had been matching Ted Williams' 2,654 hits, but pulling even with the Babe was also a big deal to him. They already shared one bond, having won World Series for the Yankees and Red Sox.

"It's definitely a big deal,'' Damon said. "But Babe hit almost 500 more home runs than I did, so his balls were leaving the ballpark.''

Marc Topkin can be reached at topkin@sptimes.com.

A’s shortstop Cliff Pennington throws over Casey Kotchman to complete a double play on B.J. Upton in the fourth inning, erasing Kotchman’s leadoff single. Kotchman led off two innings with singles and also reached on a one-out error but never scored.

Getty Images

A’s shortstop Cliff Pennington throws over Casey Kotchman to complete a double play on B.J. Upton in the fourth inning, erasing Kotchman’s leadoff single. Kotchman led off two innings with singles and also reached on a one-out error but never scored.

Athletics 6

Rays 1

Tampa Bay Rays lose 6-1 to Oakland Athletics, fall to 1-4 on road trip 07/26/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 27, 2011 10:31am]

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