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Tampa Bay Rays struggle to score, win at home

ST. PETERSBURG — Not that much is different about the place. The new AstroTurf is a little bit slower, and the crowds have been down nearly 20 percent from last year, though that's a relative decrease anyway.

Otherwise, Tropicana Field is still pretty much the same. It just hasn't been much of a homefield advantage. After posting a major-league-best-matching 158-85 record the past three seasons (.656 winning percentage), the Rays are 11-13 under the tilted roof this season.

The dropoff stems from a staggering lack of offense. They average nearly three full runs fewer per game at home (2.88) than on the road (5.52), and a full run less than opponents are averaging (3.83) at the Trop.

The problem is the Rays don't know why.

"I have no idea; I honestly don't," manager Joe Maddon said. "I think it speaks to offense in general, but I don't know why it's even less there. … I have no good understanding of why we've done so poorly offensively there."

For the record, Maddon said the turf isn't the issue. And "it has nothing to do with" attendance, "because we've had some good crowds that we haven't played well in front of, too."

The Rays' average crowd of 18,021 is 28th among the majors' 30 teams and down 19.6 percent from the same point last season, though they had six games against the Yankees and Red Sox then, compared with two this season.

But, Maddon said, "for whatever reason, we have just not been as energized (at the Trop) as we have in the past. And we need to be."

KING DAVID: Ace LHP David Price takes the mound tonight against the Indians looking for a turnaround after a pair of disappointing starts that resulted in a no-decision against the Yankees and a loss to the Marlins.

"I've just got to get that feeling back, to go out there and feel like I'm in complete control of the baseball game," he said. "Once I do that … things will start to click again and we'll get those positive results."

The necessary adjustment, he said, is more mental than physical.

INDIAN SUMMER? Maddon is among those believing the Indians, who come to the Trop tonight with a majors-best 30-17 record, are for real. He raves about their stars — SS Asdrubal Cabrera, RF Shin-Soo Choo and C Carlos Santana admires veterans 2B Orlando Cabrera, CF Grady Sizemore and DH Travis Hafner (on the disabled list), and praises what he considers an "okay" rotation.

But his prediction comes with a caution: "They're going to hit like a really nasty moment at some point. Nothing's gone wrong. Something will go wrong, and then we'll see what they've got. But I like them."

MISCELLANY: Today is the rededication of the Big Game James Club, a suite sponsored by RHP James Shields and his wife, Ryane, to host foster children, in cooperation with Eckerd Youth Alternatives. … Tonight the Rays can extend their major-league-record string of games without multiple errors to 50. … With the offense struggling, Maddon seems likely to give Sean Rodriguez more playing time at shortstop than Reid Brignac. … There will be a postgame concert Saturday by pop singer Avril Lavigne.

Tampa Bay Rays struggle to score, win at home 05/26/11 [Last modified: Thursday, May 26, 2011 9:10pm]
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