Maybe it was jet lag. Maybe it was solid pitching. Maybe it was just bad karma. Whichever, the Devil Rays' fourth game in as many days was one they likely will try to forget.
It wasn't pretty. Not at all.
The Devil Rays are doing better than any expansion team has done this early in the season. And they opened a three-game series with Anaheim hitting .311. But Friday night against the Angels, the Rays reminded themselves and a crowd of 27,767 that it isn't always rosy in baseball land.
Even playing without injured slugger Tim Salmon, the Angels clobbered Tampa Bay's pitching from start to finish, roughed up ace Wilson Alvarez, smacked 13 hits and rolled to an easy 10-3 victory in a swift 2 hours, 41 minutes.
"It just didn't happen tonight," Rays manager Larry Rothschild said.
Figure this out:
On Thursday, the Rays had nine extra-base hits and three home runs. On Friday, three extra-base hits, one home run.
On Thursday, rookie starter Jason Johnson went five strong innings and gave up two runs. On Friday, Alvarez gets pasted and yanked in the top of the second inning.
"What you learn from a game like this is that baseball is a game of averages," shortstop Kevin Stocker said. "All those great numbers from one day tend to balance out the next. You can't have all those hits every night. What you have to do is learn from this experience and completely put it behind you."
Credit Angels starter Allen Watson (1-2), who pitched a complete-game eight-hitter with five strikeouts. Apart from the home run to Fred McGriff, Watson's only blemish was hitting Stocker in the third inning.
"He got himself settled in with a couple of double plays," Rothschild said. "He hit his spots and was pitching away and mixed in some breaking balls for strikes."
While Watson was on target, Tampa Bay's arms weren't. The Devil Rays pitchers hit four Angels and added a run-scoring wild pitch all by the third inning. They gave up nine hits by the fourth inning. And eight runs by the fifth.
"I know they weren't throwing at us," Angels manager Terry Collins said. "But I was concerned about injuries. I've already got an All-Star rightfielder on the shelf."
And then there was the Devil Rays' offense. One day after slapping around the Rangers for 12 runs on 16 hits, the Rays bats weren't spanking, but sputtering.
After McGriff hit a two-run homer in the first, Tampa Bay seemed nothing like the team that had made a hit parade out of nearly every Tropicana Field appearance. They were held to six hits the rest of the way.
And even when they got a runner on base, the Rays came up empty.
"We just didn't get the timely hits tonight like we did (Thursday) and that's going to happen sometimes," third baseman Bobby Smith said. "You're not going to hit the ball like that all the time. We ran into a good pitcher and he should get credit for the way he pitched."
The start was not what the Devil Rays expected from their ace. Alvarez threw a first pitch strike to Darin Erstad but was in trouble the rest of the way.
Erstad singled and scored on Jim Edmonds' double to right-center and the nightmare first inning did not stop there. Walks to Cecil Fielder, Garret Anderson and a hit by Damon Mashore quickly made it 3-0 going into the bottom of the first.
"It started early and continued; it was just one of those nights," Rothschild said. "He didn't look like ever got close to getting comfortable on the mound. It was just one start and he's been through it before. He just needs to come out next time and pitch with conviction."
The Rays appeared to loosen the noose around Alvarez's neck in the bottom of the first when McGriff launched his shot deep into the seats in right-center.
But the pardon was short-lived. Alvarez, who pitched with impressive control during his three-game winning streak, hit Gary DiSarcina and Erstad and then walked Edmonds to load the bases with no outs. Rothschild had seen enough. He pulled Alvarez and brought in Dan Carlson.
"I am going to go home and think about it. It will be a long night," Alvarez said, "but things like this happen. This won't be the last time."
For one inning, Carlson did his job. He got Dave Hollins to strike out and then forced Fielder to ground into an inning-ending double play that kept the score 3-2.
The Angles, however, weren't yet done. They sent nine men to the plate in the third and got run-scoring singles from Noberto Martin, DiSarcina and Edmonds to push the lead to 6-2.
Erstad's double off Albie Lopez in the fifth scored two more and made it 8-2.
Season average: 33,328
Season total: 299,960