Tampa Bay Rays still struggling to score, win at home

ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays seem to have lost their homefield advantage.

Especially when they're at the plate.

With Saturday's shutout, the Rays became the first team since the 1908 Brooklyn Superbas — and the second overall in modern times — to go their first 21 home games without scoring more than five runs in any of them. The Superbas went 26, the 1907 Cardinals 22.

Overall the Rays are averaging an AL-low 2.7 runs at home (where they are 10-11), a big dropoff from the AL-best 6.2 they are scoring on the road (where they are 13-5).

Obviously, the remnants of their winless first homestand, where they scored just seven runs in five games, are part of it.

Otherwise, the Rays have no explanation for what seems more a statistical oddity they expect to even out than a legitimate trend they are concerned about.

"No idea," manager Joe Maddon said. "The air-conditioning is blowing in? The new turf is a little bit too high? They're putting too much fertilizer on it? I don't know what the deal is."

JOYCE OUT: OF Matt Joyce, the AL's leading hitter, missed his final at-bat, leaving after eight innings due to tightness in his right quad and cramping throughout both legs.

He was receiving IV fluids after the game and is expected to be back in the lineup today.

Joyce was 0-for-3, dropping his average to .360.

YOU COMPLETE ME: With Saturday's unexpected gem from Brad Bergesen, who had been 0-5, 9.13 vs. the Rays, the Orioles became the first visiting team to throw back-to-back complete games at Tropicana Field. The Rays have done it five times (though not necessarily on consecutive days). … RHP Jeremy Hellickson's complete game shutout Friday was the 10th in Rays history of four or fewer hits by a pitcher under age 25; since they began play in 1998, only the Marlins have had more. … Hellickson was the second pitcher to have such a game this season; St. Louis' Jaime Garcia has done it twice.

SONNY DAY: RHP Andy Sonnanstine should pitch better today than his first start Tuesday, Maddon said, if he pitches differently. After review, Maddon felt Sonnanstine was trying to be too fine, throwing more to miss bats than to his strengths, in his 31/3-inning, five-walk, 68-pitch outing.

"That's not how he pitches, and he knew that," Maddon said. "I want to see a little bit more aggressive Andy (today). And I really anticipate seeing that, where he's going to attack the strike zone more, be more pitch-efficient and have better results."

Sonnanstine said he should be more comfortable for this start, having had to make several adjustments going into Tuesday's game, including repeated delays in the start time due to weather delays. He had an extended bullpen session Thursday and "felt great" about how it went.

KING OF ORLANDO: Johnny Damon signed his Friday home run ball for the fan who retrieved it (as part of the Rays' promotion) then realized he needed to work out a trade. He wanted to keep that ball since it was his 2,606th career hit, passing Sanford's Tim Raines for most by an Orlando-area player.

"I'm sure we'll cross paths somewhere down the road," Damon said. "It's a big deal to me. It's probably not for him because he's not the hit king of Orlando anymore."

MISCELLANY: The Rays fell to 26-4 on Saturday concert dates. … Maddon is already planning for the NL-rules series at Florida next weekend and said Damon will play one of the games, potentially Friday, in left. … CF B.J. Upton returned after sitting out his two-game suspension and went 1-for-3. … C John Jaso and SS Reid Brignac will sign autographs from noon to 12:30 today along the rightfield line.

Tampa Bay Rays still struggling to score, win at home 05/14/11 [Last modified: Sunday, May 15, 2011 12:28am]

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