ST. PETERSBURG — As much as they avoided it during the first seven weeks of the season, the Rays knew there were going to be nights like this.
It's just the timing that wasn't good.
Opening a series that could have pushed the archrival Red Sox into a double-digit deficit, the Rays looked nothing like the team that had rolled to the majors' best record, losing 6-1 on Monday night.
"It just wasn't meant to be tonight," manager Joe Maddon said.
It was their second-largest loss of the season — and only their fifth by more than two runs — and was void of the formula that produced what is still a major-league-best 32-13 record.
Dominating starting pitching? Hardly, as Wade Davis, despite what Maddon insisted was "really good stuff," looked very much like a rookie, failing to get through four innings while throwing 97 pitches.
Resurgent offense? Shut down, with just six hits total and failing when it mattered most: 1-for-6 with runners in scoring position, including bases loaded with one out in the first and second and third with one out in the second.
Dazzling defense? Not so much. Evan Longoria couldn't make a play on a slow bouncer that scored one run and led to another in the third.
Good luck? Nowhere to be found, with the Trop's quirkiness working against them as what would have been an easy pop-out by Dustin Pedroia negated since it struck a speaker, and he instead started the Sox's biggest rally.
At least there was a packed Trop for the showdown series — oh, wait, that wasn't the case, either, with an announced attendance of 21,430 (just 2,500 more than May 17 against the Indians, though those tickets cost about half as much).
"They just brought it to us tonight," Carl Crawford said. "It wasn't nothing to really put our head down about. It was just one game that we lost. I think they just outplayed us tonight, basically."
Which was kind of their plan.
"These guys have been giving us a hard time," Red Sox DH David Ortiz said. "Not only to us, but to everyone. That's why they have the best record in baseball. So you have to play your best."
As amazing as the Rays have been on the road (a major-league-best 19-5), they are a pedestrian 12-8 at home and have had trouble getting acclimated, losing the first game back after each of their three trips.
They fell behind early Monday, when Ortiz led off the second with his eighth homer of the month, and it got ugly in the third, a 40-pitch mess in which Davis gave up three runs on three hits and three walks.
"That (stinks)," Davis said. "It takes its toll on your body, your arm, your mind, just trying to refocus and rest and get a couple outs. It's tough."
What made it worse was that the inning could have looked totally different. Davis got the first out and would have had the second, but Pedroia's popup was ruled a dead ball, and given new life he singled to start the rally.
"We've had it work in our favor; it worked against us tonight," Maddon said. "That popup's caught, which it would have been, there's two outs and nobody's on. All of a sudden it's one out and a guy on and then things just started to unravel a bit."
Davis walked the next two to load the bases, and whatever relief he felt in getting Ortiz to pop out disappeared quickly as he walked J.D. Drew to force in one run, gave up another when Longoria — who makes that play look easy because he makes it so often — couldn't handle Adrian Beltre's slow roller, then another on Jeremy Hermida's single.
"It was really a lot closer … it was weird … it was a strange game in that regard," Maddon said.
Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected]