ST. PETERSBURG — Rays manager Joe Maddon has said that "you can't be an oil painting every night."
But after Tampa Bay looked pretty bad in a 5-0 loss to the Reds on Monday in front of 19,891 and an ESPN audience — committing two errors and a baserunning blunder while struggling offensively and on the mound — Maddon had a fitting way to describe the game.
"It was a stinker, absolutely it was," Maddon said.
"Disappointing," added leftfielder Sam Fuld.
Said Evan Longoria: "It wasn't fun, to say the least."
What made it unexpected was how well the Rays (44-35) had played on their recent road trip, winning five of six, including four in a row, to move a season-best 10 games over .500 and racking up 32 hits in their final two wins in Houston.
But at Tropicana Field, Tampa Bay has been an inexplicably different team, going 18-19 while averaging 3.08 runs. On Monday, the Rays had six hits and went 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position.
"Perplexing," Maddon said. "I don't have any good answers. All I know is the Trop owes us a lot of runs this year."
Rays rookie right-hander Jeremy Hellickson, who picked up his fourth consecutive loss, has been getting used to little support with the Rays scoring one run for him in that span, including three shutouts.
Hellickson allowed four runs on a career-high eight hits, including a solo homer by ex-Rays outfielder Jonny Gomes. Maddon said Hellickson threw a few too many offspeed pitches early and left them up.
"There were a couple changeups early that were not doing much," Hellickson said. "And they have some good hitters and took advantage of that."
One day after scoring 14 runs on 19 hits, the Rays were shut down by Mike Leake, who allowed four hits over six innings. And on one of the Rays' best chances to score, a baserunning miscue by Longoria helped thwart the rally.
With Ben Zobrist on second and Longoria on first and no outs, Matt Joyce flew out to deep left-centerfield. Longoria made the turn at second base and passed Zobrist, getting called out in the process. Casey Kotchman then grounded out.
"The ball Joyce hit, I was convinced it was going to get down," Longoria said. "And in my mind, I was trying to give myself the best chance to score. It didn't work out that way. Obviously we all know what happened. Just not the right decision to make there."
Said Leake: "It was just a brain fart. He doesn't make too many mistakes. That was a little gift to me."
Longoria also had an error, as did Zobrist, who allowed a grounder to go through him at second base in the fifth. Maddon did praise the Rays for how they fought until the end, playing well late in the game, including a double play and a great over-the-shoulder catch by Fuld to end the top of the eighth.
But, by then, it was too late.
"You're going to have those nights like (Monday night)," Longoria said. "Obviously, you wish they never happen."
Joe Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.