Tampa Bay Rays lose to New York Mets 5-3

NEW YORK — The games are starting to look the same. And so are the results.

Friday, it was a three-run homer by Brian Schneider off Andy Sonnanstine and a lack of clutch hitting that resulted in a 5-3 loss to the Mets.

That wasn't much different from Thursday, when Matt Garza gave up a two-run homer and two solo bombs without much support in a 4-3 loss in Colorado. Or the night before, when David Price allowed a three-run homer to Troy Tulowitzki in a 5-3 loss.

Just like that, the momentum the Rays had built with a season-high six-game winning streak is gone, as is most of the cushion they had built above .500; they fell to 35-33. Twenty of the losses are by one or two runs.

"We're losing way too many close games," manager Joe Maddon said. "We're just playing good enough to lose right now. We've got to turn it over to the top somehow. Whether it's a pitch, a play, a knock, something. The effort level's good. The intensity is good.

"We're just missing that magical ingredient that we have to recapture somehow."

Friday's loss was like many of the others.

Sonnanstine didn't pitch horribly, allowing four runs on seven hits over six innings. But he did just enough wrong to lose by leaving a fastball over too much of the plate that Schneider knocked over the rightfield fence in the second.

"It's very frustrating," Sonnanstine said. "I'd give almost anything to have that pitch back."

Maddon pointed out another problem — a two-out RBI double by David Wright that made it 4-0 Mets in the third — but otherwise continued to support Sonnanstine.

"He did settle down and pitch well, also," Maddon said.

But the bottom line is that Sonnanstine is 6-7, his ERA (which went down) is 6.60, his batting average allowed is .307, his 15 homers allowed are second-most in the American League, and Scott Kazmir could be ready to return by the end of next week.

"I felt confident and comfortable out there," Sonnanstine said. "And any time I get a hit in a game (a third-inning single), that really boosts my confidence on the mound as well. But I have to take ownership of this one. It's a tough one to swallow."

The bad moments on the mound have been accompanied by failures at the plate. Friday the Rays went 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position. Part of their problem was the size of the new Citi Field.

The Rays raved about the modern facilities and plush accommodations inside and the enchanting retro look to the field, especially compared with the concrete coliseum built for the Yankees in the Bronx.

"It's pretty cool," Maddon said before the game. "It's pretty cool. I'm digging it. Nice vibe."

But they weren't as happy afterward after seeing a series of well-struck balls, and a few rather crushed ones, end up as easy fly outs. Evan Longoria had one, Ben Zobrist had one, and Dioner Navarro had a couple.

"It is kind of frustrating, but it is what it is," Navarro said. "It's a big ballpark, and the ball doesn't travel as well."

Maddon remains confident they are close to the turnaround, citing B.J. Upton's two-run double that drew them within 4-3 in the seventh, though the next inning they had two on and failed again.

"We've just got to do a better job right there," he said. "And we know it."

Mets 5

Rays 3

Tampa Bay Rays lose to New York Mets 5-3 06/19/09 [Last modified: Saturday, June 20, 2009 12:46am]

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