MINNEAPOLIS — The sign in the Metrodome visitor's clubhouse welcoming the "Devil Rays" may be outdated.
But in a forgettable 8-3 loss to the Minnesota Twins on Wednesday night, its sixth in nine games on the road trip, the Tampa Bay Rays looked a lot more like the teams from its woeful past than the defending American League champions.
There were struggles by starter Tampa Bay Rays starter Scott Kazmir (eight runs in four innings), some defensive gaffes (two errors) and punchless bats, leaving few silver linings.
The last-place Tampa Bay Rays (8-14) left town having lost six straight series for the first time since 2004, when they dropped 11 consecutive series en route to a 91-loss season.
But what frustrated shortstop Jason Bartlett more than the defeat was how it happened.
"There was no real fire tonight," Bartlett said. "Tonight it just seemed like we were already thinking about our plane ride home."
Welcoming them home tonight are the red-hot Red Sox, who open a four-game series at Tropicana Field.
Bartlett, who left Wednesday's game in the fifth with left hamstring tightness, said he's fine and plans to be back in the starting lineup tonight. And he hopes the Rays return to their familiar form of "working hard."
"We're not really pleased with what's going on," manager Joe Maddon said. "There is no question about that. We should have been able to win more than one series to this point. But it's early. It truly is early. And I'm very optimistic we can turn this thing around."
Maddon thought Kazmir (3-2), trying to tie a club record with his fourth April win, threw the ball "really well" in a frustrating first inning. The Twins didn't hit the ball very hard but still managed to bat around and score four runs.
"It seemed like I was making the pitches I wanted to in the first inning," Kazmir said. "I just didn't seem to have a good outcome."
Two singles and a walk loaded the bases, and Kazmir threw the first of two wild pitches. Each scored a run, and the second came on a strikeout of Delmon Young. But another scored when, on a play typifying both Kazmir and the Rays' struggles, a Jason Kubel fly ball to shallow rightfield dropped in between Akinori Iwamura and Ben Zobrist, who appeared to have a miscommunication.
Maddon said Zobrist heard Iwamura call for it and backed off. "Not a routine play, but could have been caught," he said.
The Rays, who have scored three runs or fewer in each of their past 12 losses, had only a few offensive bright spots, with Pat Burrell, Carl Crawford and Zobrist each picking up two hits. Pitching-wise, Lance Cormier threw four scoreless innings.
But the Rays defense made its mistakes, too, with typically sure-handed Iwamura making two errors on one play, fumbling a chopper by Kubel before making an errant throw past Carlos Peña at first.
Kazmir said, "We just didn't play good overall baseball." He said the team is frustrated but not panicking by any stretch.
"We just need a kick start," Kazmir said. "We need a nice little winning streak to get our confidence back and ride it out. That's what we did last year, we kept fighting and pulling out late-inning wins. And we rode that all the way through. We just need to get one of those going and keep the intensity up."
Joe Smith can be reached at email@example.com.