ARLINGTON, Texas — After another frustrating loss due to a lack of offense, this time 2-0 to Texas on Tuesday, manager Joe Maddon challenged his Rays to dig deeper and find a way, even to "will" themselves, to win well-pitched games before time runs out on their faint playoff hopes.
"Too many of these games, too many 1-0, 2-0 losses," Maddon said. "We've got to get beyond that. There are no excuses. We've got to figure out a way to score runs against some of these guys. …
"It's just one of those things. You've got to find something. You've got to find another gear and just pull it out somehow. You've almost got to will getting hits. It's almost beyond any kind of physical mechanics. You've just got to beat the other guy.
"Like when you played Little League, you just wanted to beat the other guy; it was never about mechanics. We just have to somehow find something within our reserve tanks and figure out a way to get these guys. Because we're playing way too well."
Tuesday was just the latest example, when their pitching and defense delivered and their offense did not, shut down not so much by a good pitcher but by a pitcher, Scott Feldman, who had a good game, as they had three hits total. It was the 13th time — 12th in the past 80 games — they've been shut out, second most in the American League, and the 30th time they've lost by two or fewer runs.
The loss, their second straight, dropped them to 73-61 and to 8½ behind wild card-leading New York, and illuminated the difficulty of their challenge as they have 28 games left and 19 are against the Yankees, Rangers and Red Sox.
"Time's running out because of these kind of losses," Maddon said. "We've got to figure out a way to win these games."
Jeremy Hellickson, pitching like the American League rookie of the year candidate the Rays are touting, shut out the power Rangers for five innings. But then he quickly gave up two runs in a four-hit barrage to open the sixth, starting with one-time Tampa Bay prospect Josh Hamilton's massive home run, estimated at 449 feet, into the second deck beyond rightfield.
"That would have done Robert Redford proud," Maddon said.
Hellickson said he didn't tire as much in the Texas heat — first pitch temperature was 102 — but lost command of his fastball. "I missed my spot a few times," Hellickson said.
And the pitch to Hamilton, apparently by a lot. "Right down the middle," Hellickson said. "Right where he likes it."
For the most part, Hellickson did his job, working out of two bases-loaded situations with no further damage and allowing six hits and four walks (two intentional) in six innings. "I thought I pitched well enough," he said.
But it was a familiar outcome, the 10th time in 24 starts — and ninth of his 10 losses — in which the Rays scored one or no runs.
The Rays did what they could to battle the heat, with an abbreviated pregame workout; ample drinks, Gatorade bars, ammonia-soaked towels on the bench; even arrangements for IV fluids if needed.
But the cold bats did them in, again. They had only three singles against Feldman and four relievers and, counting an odd fielder's choice in the third, six baserunners, with two caught stealing.
"I think we all want to win, and we do what it takes to," Johnny Damon said. "It's a game of inches."
Marc Topkin can be reached at email@example.com.