Thursday, February 22, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Slumping Rays lose to Athletics again

OAKLAND, Calif. — Ghosts from the Rays' past have been popping up all year, with Oakland's Stephen Vogt on Saturday becoming the latest former teammate to beat them.

But more haunting as they head into the final month of this season of grand expectation has been their lack of offense, evident again in Saturday's 2-1 loss to the A's, and a primary reason they lost for the sixth time in their past seven games.

"We haven't been coming through," third baseman Evan Longoria said. "That simply can't happen or we're going to be going home at the end of September. That's the bottom line."

Alex Cobb gave the Rays a solid start, except for the triple he allowed to Vogt and a solo homer to Coco Crisp, but it went to waste as the Rays managed only seven hits and the one run.

The Rays (75-59) dropped 4½ games behind the American League East-leading Red Sox and 1½ behind the wild-card-leading A's. In what may be of more importance, they are 3½ ahead of the Yankees for the second wild-card spot.

"We have to offensively stir it up a bit more somehow," manager Joe Maddon said. "That's been the mantra right there: We haven't hit enough."

They have 16 runs in the seven games, with a team average barely above .200. The right-handed hitters have been particularly bad, as Longoria (2-for-his-last-23), Wil Myers (1-for-23) and Desmond Jennings (5-for-39) are all struggling, and the signs of frustration are becoming obvious.

"We have to get those guys right,'' Maddon said.

Longoria said it's been a trying time.

"There's no doubt I'm frustrated,'' he said. "I'll just speak for myself. I had a good week and a half a couple weeks but it just seems I haven't been able to put it all together for a good amount of time. I don't know what it is, I wish I could figure it out. I'm doing all the same things, working the same way. For whatever reason, it's just eluded me. It seems to be that way for the rest of the guys offensively. We've had good streches where guys individually have been really good, but as a team it's been pretty frustrating for the past at least a month.''

The numbers back that up, as the Rays scored only 89 runs in August, the first time they didn't total at least 100 in a month since July 2009, and their lowest scoring August ever.

ogt had three stints with the Rays during the 2012 season, but they never saw him get a hit, his 0-for-25 the longest hitless streak to start a career in Tampa Bay franchise history.

He was traded to the A's at the start of this season, got called up in late June and, after seven more tries, got that first big-league hit in his third game, and a home run at that. He had gotten 19 more hits since then, but since the first one, none could have felt as good as the triple he laced off the rightfield wall just out of the reach of a leaping Wil Myers to open the sixth inning Saturday. He then scored on Crisp's single.

"It's a happy feeling,'' Vogt said. "To contribute to a win is huge for me personally. … It's fun to play against them and see familiar faces across the way.''

Cobb got off to a rough start, giving up a single to Crisp on his first pitch, paying no attention as Crisp swiped second then walking Josh Donaldson. That prompted a visit from pitching coach Jim Hickey, and whatever he said certainly worked as Cobb allowed only four more hits in the complete-game loss though the two runs.

"Cobb was fantastic,'' Maddon said. "You keep the other team to two points you'd like to believe you can win a lot of those games and we just haven't been able to conjure it up.''

A's rookie starter Sonny Gray, a product of Vanderbilt like David Price, was tough on the Rays, striking out five of the first six, though based on the hitters' reactions he was getting help from home-plate umpire Manny Gonzalez.

Though the Rays eventually created opportunities, against Gray and the Oakland bullpen, they couldn't cash in, going 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position, leaving nine on.

They were shutout into the ninth, when they came up short again. Myers ended an 0-for-22 with his first extra-base hit since Aug. 15, a one-out double off closer Grant Balfour, another ex-Ray. James Loney walked, but Jose Lobaton lined out on the first pitch. A wild pitch advanced Myers to third, and Jennings singled him in, but Kelly Johnson bounced out for the final out.

"We've really pitched well, we've caught it,'' Maddon said. "It's just a lack of hitting. The offense really needs to pick it up a little bit.''

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