ST. PETERSBURG — Some things are going pretty well for the Rays, as 25 games into the season they have the leading home run hitter, Carlos Peña, and top RBI man, Evan Longoria, in the majors.
But too many things are not, which is why they also have the second-most losses in the majors, on the back side of a 10-15 record.
After two nights of promise and progress in wins over the rival Red Sox, the Rays stepped back on Saturday, losing 10-6 and failing, again, to cobble their first three-game winning streak of the season. There are only three other AL teams are in that situation — the Orioles, Indians and A's — and they're all in last place.
"Sure it's frustrating," Longoria said. "But we're going to have winning streaks. We're going to win five, 10 games in a row. This team, we're too good to not do that. We just have to keep it cliche and keep coming to the ballpark every day and put it together. I'm sure that at some point we're going to start winning a bunch in a row."
The Rays' problem is not uncommon, just the inability to play well in all facets at the same time. "We have to get to that stride where we're hitting and we're pitching; the defense is always there," closer Troy Percival said. "And that'll happen, and that's when teams go on a roll and win 15 out of 20, and we'll do that."
Saturday, though, they were off in all areas: mound, plate, field, even dugout. The Tropicana Field crowd of 34,910 seemed split, which isn't good. The action was mostly pro Red Sox.
For starters, Jeff Niemann wasn't very good. He got into trouble early and couldn't get out of it, allowing six runs (five earned) and lasting three innings, and some uncharacteristically shaky defense made it worse. Of the 19 batters he faced, 12 reached.
And there wasn't much relief. Grant Balfour came in after the Rays closed to within a run and made a mess of the sixth, allowing an infield single and two walks, leading to a two-run double by Kevin Youkilis.
Then Brian Shouse had his own problems in the seventh, allowing a leadoff homer to Mike Lowell, then following an intentional walk to Dustin Pedroia by hitting David Ortiz to load the bases and walking Youkilis to force in another run.
For the night, the pitchers walked seven and hit two others. Plus they had two errors and a few assorted misplays.
The hitting wasn't all that effective, either. Peña hit his 11th homer, and Longoria ran his RBI total to 30 with a two-run single, but the Rays didn't come up with the big hit when they needed it, leaving runners on second and third in the fifth after they closed to within 6-5, and again in the sixth after the Sox extended the lead by two.
They had their usual — though not recent — problems with knuckleballing nemesis Tim Wakefield, who became a career 20-game winner against them.
Even manager Joe Maddon had an off night, as a couple of his typically unconventional moves didn't work out. He brought in the lefty Shouse to face righty Youkilis with the bases loaded hoping for a double play grounder, but Youkilis ripped a two-run double. The next inning, he had Shouse intentionally walk Pedroia to face Ortiz, and that didn't work out, either.
Maddon talked before the game of the Rays' solid play the previous two nights as a sign they were getting back that lovin' feeling.
"We love being in love," he said, "but we're just not staying in love."
Marc Topkin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.