ST. PETERSBURG — The uniforms, a 1970s-style creation, were retro and the music, performed post game by Earth, Wind & Fire, old school. But the overriding theme of the night for the Rays was definitely modern, circa 2012.
They got hurt.
And they got beat.
Jeremy Hellickson, in his first start after two weeks on the disabled list, was forced from the game in the third inning after sustaining a bruised right shin when struck by a Prince Fielder line drive, though he is expected to make his next start.
Making it more painful, the Tigers scored their first run on the play, then added more later against relievers Joel Peralta, in his return from suspension, and Burke Badenhop for a 6-2 victory Saturday before a Tropicana Field concert-night crowd of 29,443.
"It's like it never ends," centerfielder B.J. Upton said. "It's like it's always something. But we're a pretty resilient group. We've always been that way. … We'll come out of it. And when we do, you'll know it."
But for now, it doesn't look good. The Rays (41-37) lost for the 12th time in 18 games to finish June 12-15, dropping from one game ahead in the American League East to 6½ behind.
Hellickson had a noticeable bump on his right shin and was still in pain, though relieved X-rays didn't show a break. Manager Joe Maddon said Hellickson was fine and expected to make his next start Thursday; Hellickson said he would have to see how it feels in a couple of days.
"It didn't get bone, but it hurt," he said. "I tried to stay in, but it just went numb on me. I couldn't really feel anything."
Hellickson navigated a shaky first inning, then zipped through the second with six pitches but loaded the bases with one out in the third on three straight singles. Fielder ripped into a 1-and-1 pitch, and the ball struck Hellickson on the side of the right shin and caromed to first base as the run scored.
Hellickson went down and stayed there for a few minutes, then threw three warmup pitches. Maddon, concerned Hellickson would put additional strain on his shoulder, didn't need to see any more.
The Rays bullpen kept it 1-0 until the eighth, getting solid work from J.P. Howell (two innings), Wade Davis (1⅓) and Kyle Farnsworth (one), in his season debut.
But it wasn't a smooth return for Peralta, who sat out the previous eight games for his pine-tar violation. He allowed a one-out double to Brennan Boesch, hit Ramon Santiago with two outs, then allowed a three-run homer to Austin Jackson on a fastball he said he shouldn't have thrown.
Still, the primary problem remains the lack of offense, evidenced by an AL-worst .222 June average, a team record low for any month.
The Rays managed only a bunt hit through five innings and four singles through seven against Rick Porcello, who hadn't had a scoreless outing all season, before getting eighth-inning homers from Jeff Keppinger and Peña off ex-mate Joaquin Benoit. When they did load the bases in the sixth, Upton and Luke Scott — 0-for-11 in his return from the disabled list — made first-pitch outs.
"It's just not working," Upton said.
Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected]