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Tampa Bay Rays on verge of elimination after 6-0 loss to Texas Rangers in Game 2 of AL division series

ST. PETERSBURG — About the only thing the Rays have gotten in the first two games of the AL division series is frustrated.

They haven't gotten any big hits, they haven't gotten any key breaks and they haven't gotten any wins, Thursday's 6-0 loss to the Rangers leaving them trailing two-to-none in the best-of-five series with both momentum and history against them when they resume play Saturday in Arlington.

"Yeah, it's definitely frustrating," pitcher James Shields said. "There's no doubt about it. We worked hard all year long, and now we're down 0-2. So it's definitely frustrating."

It's been obvious in their faces, in their words and in their actions, especially after a fifth-inning sequence that started with what they considered another bad call led to a three-run momentum-building homer by Texas' Michael Young and was capped by manager Joe Maddon's ejection after his latest sermon on the mound.

"I would say it's building," third baseman Evan Longoria said. "And I don't want the breaking point to be us going home."

To avoid that, they are going to have to do what only one team in major-league history, the 2001 Yankees, has done: win a five-game series after losing the first two at home.

The lack of offense — even by their low standards — has been startling, as they've managed just one run and eight hits in 18 innings (a .125 average) while striking out 23 times (11 looking). And even worse when it matters most, a 1-for-13 mark with runners in scoring position, with nine strikeouts.

But at least that, in theory, they can do something about.

"We've got to do obviously something different offensively," Longoria said. "Change our approach, get a hit, something's got to change."

But their concern over an accumulation of bad breaks and questionable calls — such as the foul ball call on Carlos Peña in Game 1 — seems to be growing and, however justified, may be becoming part of their problem.

"We're getting on the umpires too much," reliever Grant Balfour said. "Yeah, he made a bad call. But what else did we do? We didn't do anything ourselves. Okay, maybe (Young) was out. Then what else? We didn't score any runs."

The call they were most concerned about Thursday certainly came at an inopportune moment.

With the Rangers up 2-0 and threatening with two on and one out in the fifth, Maddon pulled starter James Shields and brought in Chad Qualls to face Young.

Qualls got the count to 2-and-2 and threw a slider that appeared to the Rays and most of the Tropicana Field sellout crowd of 35,535 — and even to Young, he admitted later — to have him struck out. Not to first-base umpire Jerry Meals, who on appeal ruled that Young checked his swing.

The Rays were still screaming from the dugout — and the crowd chanting "Replay! Replay!" — about that call when Young gave them something much more damaging to be mad about, crushing Qualls' next pitch for a three-run homer that pretty much ended their chances by expanding the deficit to 5-0.

"Sometimes breaks go your way and sometimes they don't," Longoria said. "The one today was a little bit tougher to swallow because of the three-run homer that followed. A two-run ball game in this ballpark at home is a lot different ball game than 5-0 or 6-0."

The check-swing appeal is a judgment call, and umpire crew chief Tim Welke said Meals used his. "He felt it was close, but he felt he didn't go," Welke said. "It's either a swing or not a swing, and his judgment is he didn't swing."

Qualls said he couldn't tell from the straight-on view (though he thought it was a strike when he watched the replay), but other Rays felt Young definitely swung.

"Obviously you saw my reaction," catcher Kelly Shoppach said. "I clearly thought he went."

And they didn't feel any better to hear Young pretty much agree.

"If he would've rung me up, I wouldn't have said anything," Young said.

Maddon had plenty to say, employing one of his new tricks of going to the mound to skirt the rule prohibiting arguing ball-and-strike calls, then doing precisely that from there.

"It's really hard to yell from the dugout — nobody can hear you," he said. "So I had to go out to the mound and make my point."

The umpires gave him some leeway, then decided enough was enough. Maddon stirred the crowd, but his team not so much. The Rays basically had one chance, opening the seventh with men on second and third.

"The breaks right now are obviously going their way," Shoppach said. "But we've got to seize our opportunities."

To this point, that has been easier said than done.

Marc Topkin can be reached at topkin@sptimes.com.

O? No!

The Rays offense in the first two games of the ALDS:

Game 1Game 2Total

Runs101

Hits628

Avg. .176.067.125
(6-34) (2-30)(8-64)

K's1310 23
(7/6*)(5/5*)(12/11*)

BB's235

LOB8715

RISP1-for-100-for-31-for-13

* Strikeouts swinging/looking

Tampa Bay Rays on verge of elimination after 6-0 loss to Texas Rangers in Game 2 of AL division series 10/07/10 [Last modified: Friday, October 8, 2010 9:09am]

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