CLEVELAND — In the midst of some bad luck — and bad losses — the Rays were in need of some good news Tuesday night.
They had just lost both their starting middle infielders in a 48-hour stretch, Akinori Iwamura for the season and shortstop Jason Bartlett to the 15-day disabled list.
And they were coming off the biggest collapse in club history, a potentially deflating loss to the last-place Indians on Monday night.
But on a rainy Tuesday, the Rays' mood wasn't much better after a 5-1 loss to Cleveland in front of 18,754 at Progressive Field. It was their third straight loss, and 15th straight in Cleveland, dropping them to two games under .500 (23-25) after taking more than a month to get back there.
The Rays are in fourth place in the East and five games behind, closer to last place than first.
"I think everybody … we're tired a little bit," Ben Zobrist said. "It's been a long stretch. It was kind of nasty out there tonight. There's a lot of things that kind of culminate, hearing more guys going on the DL and stuff like that. Everybody is a little bit tired. We're just going to have to push through this and fight through it. And keep winning games."
The Rays had their most consistent starter, right-hander Matt Garza, go six innings, but he gave up four runs (on three homers), and the offense — which had been a bright spot — sputtered against red-hot right-hander Carl Pavano.
The Rays really needed a long outing from Garza, especially with the bullpen having logged nine innings the previous two games. Entering Tuesday's game, Tampa Bay relievers led the AL in appearances with 142.
Garza had been the Rays' workhorse but was outpitched by Pavano, who baffled Rays hitters for the second straight outing. Pavano won his fifth game in May, more than any other pitcher in the majors.
Pavano "had really good command of his off-speed pitches," manager Joe Maddon said. "He threw his fastball where he wanted to, pretty much kept us off-balance."
The Indians took a 2-0 lead thanks to solo homers by Ryan Garko in the second, his third in the past two days, and Asdrubal Cabrera in the third.
Garza said he felt he had good stuff, but the long ball did him in, as it did last season in Cleveland, when two two-run homers accounted for more than half the runs he gave up.
In the sixth, Garza hit Garko with a pitch with two outs. The next batter, Mark DeRosa, ripped a two-run homer to right-center to give the Indians a 4-0 lead. "That hit-by-pitch hurt," Garza said. "No ifs ands or buts about it."
Left-hander Randy Choate, called up Monday, pitched for the second straight night, giving the rest of the bullpen a break by pitching two innings and giving up just one run.
But other than Carlos Peña's homer in the seventh, his AL-leading 16th, there were few bright spots for the short-handed Rays.
"Last year, when we were going real well, we still had guys go down and other guys pick us up," Zobrist said. "And we need to do that again."