MINNEAPOLIS — The zero on the Target Field scoreboard was definitive, of course, reflecting that the Rays officially had nothing to show for their day at the plate in a 7-0 holiday matinee loss to the Twins.
They instead were left to ponder the what-ifs and could-have-beens, starting with a fizzled first-inning rally that they felt would have changed the outlook, as well as the outcome, had they put a lead in David Price's hands.
"Absolutely," B.J. Upton said. "We score first, it's a totally different ball game."
But they didn't, despite having the bases loaded with one out. Nor in the second, or the fourth, or the fifth when they got the leadoff man on. Or at all against Twins lefty Brian Duensing.
The Rays (47-38) were left with their second shutout in the past seven games, and seventh overall, failing to gain on the Yankees before a four-game series in New York that starts Thursday.
"It's disappointing," Price said. "We got out-pitched."
After back-to-back games of relative offensive excess at home, the Rays looked like they would hit the road — where they have been a much better offensive team — running.
Johnny Damon and Sean Rodriguez singled to start the game, and after Evan Longoria — who had another 0-fer — flied to left, Upton walked on eight pitches.
Justin Ruggiano swung and missed at the first pitch, then hit the next one hard but right to second baseman Alexi Casilla, who turned it into a double play, dropping the Rays' AL-worst average with the bases loaded to .220.
"I got a fastball to hit, and I hit it decent," Ruggiano said. "I just hit it right into the ground."
The Rays knew they had wasted a good opportunity, even more so given their AL-best 34-8 record when scoring first, including 23-5 on the road, compared with 13-30 (3-12 on the road) when they don't. What they didn't know at the time was that it was the best chance they'd get all day.
"We don't scratch anything right there, and I think that kind of, not to say slowed us down, but that probably was the deciding factor in that game," Upton said.
Well, that and Price's poor second inning, when two singles and a walk loaded the bases, then No. 9 hitter Tsuyoshi Nishioka laced a ball over rightfielder Matt Joyce's head for two runs, and a slow roller that just escaped Price's grasp scored another.
Down 3-0, and then 4-0 when Michael Cuddyer blasted a 443-foot home run in the third, the Rays were unable to recover as Duensing, mixing in his curveball as the game went along, posted the second shutout of his 94-game career.
"Early on we were on him," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "We were having good at-bats, swinging the bat, hitting balls hard. And then the hard contact went away."
Casey Kotchman led off the second with a single, but Kelly Shoppach hit into a double play. Upton singled to start the fourth but, after Cuddyer made a leaping catch at the wall to rob Ruggiano, was caught stealing on a close call — "Was he out?" Maddon asked — at second.
After Kotchman and Shoppach singled, Joyce was robbed when Casilla dived to his right to end the inning and pretty much the game as the Rays had only two more baserunners.
"It's frustrating," Joyce said.
Marc Topkin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.