ST. PETERSBURG — With "Tampa" across the front of the Rays' jerseys, you could suggest they actually might have been peeking ahead to the future. But the actual theme Friday was to Turn Back the Clock, and clearly the Rays didn't journey far enough.
Forget tripping back to the 1970s, as per the red-and-white minor-league Tampa Tarpons uniforms they wore. Just going back several months, to April or May when they were scoring runs, and seemingly at will, would have been welcome enough.
Instead, the 5-0 loss to the Bucked-up Orioles featured more of the recent past. The Rays (69-45) were shut out, for the sixth time, and shut down, held to three measly hits, the major-league-high 10th time of three or fewer. And an 0-for-7 night with runners in scoring position left them a stark .160 (9-for-56) over their past seven games.
"We're just having a real hard time right now offensively," manager Joe Maddon said. "We've got to keep working through it. And I'll say it again: I believe in our guys. It's one of those moments that are very difficult, but you've got to keep fighting through.
"And this is the time when you really stick together and eventually you come out on the other side, and good things happen. And that's how I see it."
Maybe so. But for now, it was another loss, their seventh in nine games. And it extended their freaky Friday record to a frustrating 3-15 — friggatriskaidekaphobia aside, given it was Friday the 13th — before 24,277 at Tropicana Field.
Of greater concern, it dropped the Rays 2½ games behind the first-place Yankees, pending their late game in Kansas City, though their wild-card lead over the Red Sox remained four when the Rangers won 10-9 in 11 innings.
The good news, in theory, for starter James Shields was that he kept the ball in the park. He tied a modern-day major-league record his last time out by allowing six home runs, pushing his major-league co-leading total to 28.
Instead it was just 10 hits — "only four hard-hit," he said — over five-plus innings, but another disappointing performance that dropped his record to 10-11 and raised his ERA to a season-high 4.98.
What made it more frustrating for Shields was he was a pitch away — and he thought he threw a pretty good pitch at the time to ex-Ray Ty Wigginton — from escaping the first inning. Instead, after allowing a couple of flares over first base, starting with Wigginton, and a couple of hard hits, Shields ended up allowing three runs and throwing 34 pitches total.
"Nonfortuitous," Maddon said. "Kind of a maddening first inning."
"For the most part, I felt I made the pitches I needed to. It just didn't go my way," Shields said. "It was a tough loss."
Things went fine for the Buck Showalter-led Orioles, who sported the garish all-orange uniforms worn occasionally during the 1971 season, when they had an unprecedented four 20-game winners (Jim Palmer, Dave McNally, Mike Cueller and Pat Dobson).
Jeremy Guthrie, with only 20 wins the previous two seasons, fit right in, holding the Rays to just two hits — one a fly ball that dropped into leftfield on a Felix Pie misplay — over six innings.
"I'm not going to take anything away from him; he pitched well and he threw the ball well," Maddon said. "But we are in such a hard moment right now."
Marc Topkin can be reached at email@example.com.