The Devil Rays signed Wilson Alvarez to help them through the tough times, to provide stability and leadership to their otherwise inexperienced rotation.
But as they struggle through the most difficult stretch in their short history, Alvarez has failed to deliver.
For the second time in a week, the Rays sent Alvarez to the mound to try to break a losing streak against one of the American League's least-threatening teams.
For the second time, Alvarez couldn't do it.
The Rays lost again Tuesday, 4-2 to the Royals before 12,096 at Kauffman Stadium. The loss was their fourth straight, 10th in 11 games and 12th in 14.
Alvarez wasn't hit hard, with a handful of bloop hits among the 10 he gave up, but he couldn't make it out of the sixth inning.
"There's going to have be some games we win 2-0 or 2-1," pitching coach Rick Williams said. "Those times are going to need to come from somebody on our staff. You'd like to think it would be him. It didn't happen.
"We're not always going to score a lot of runs. The times we do, we need to hold them. And the times we don't, we need to pitch to contain the other team. A couple bloops fell in, but you know how that goes. That story gets old after a while."
Pitching wasn't the Rays' only problem. Their bats were quiet, too. Tampa Bay was held to one run on five hits through the first eight innings by Kansas City's less-then-imposing trio of Hipolito Pichardo, Jose Rosado and Scott Service.
Until a ninth-inning rally, which included a Paul Sorrento home run and brought the go-ahead run to the plate, the Rays' biggest explosion came in the seventh inning when shortstop Kevin Stocker was ejected by home plate umpire Durwood Merrill in a dispute over whether time was called.
"I thought we hit a number of balls hard early, then the fourth, fifth and sixth were pretty easy innings," manager Larry Rothschild said. "But we had a chance to win the game."
That chance came in the ninth against Royals relief ace Jeff Montgomery.
Sorrento led off with a 430-foot home run to right, his third in three games. Rookie Bobby Smith singled and an out later, and Aaron Ledesma singled to put runners on first and third. But Miguel Cairo struck out, and Mike Kelly hit into a fielder's choice to end the game, snapping the Royals' three-game losing streak.
"We're not doing the job together. It's supposed to be a team," Alvarez said. "Like I said the last time, I have no control over the hitting. What I have to do is go out there and do my job, and that's it. We have to do the job as a team, and we're not doing it right now."
Alvarez received a five-year, $35-million contract for a number of reasons. One was to be the pitcher who could stop bad streaks and start good ones.
"You'd like to anticipate that something like that's going to happen," Williams said. "It's not always going to happen, but you would like to see something like that come up, similar to the one he gave us in Anaheim."
Alvarez (3-4) lost the Rays' inaugural game, looked strong in beating his former White Sox teammates twice and pitched a big game in Anaheim on April 18 the night after the Rays were shut out. But he hasn't won since, losing three straight.
Last Wednesday he held the Twins scoreless on three hits through six innings, but didn't make it out of the eighth as the Rays lost 2-0.
Tuesday he was handed a 1-0 lead and allowed just a broken-bat double by Jose Offerman and a walk through the first three innings.
But the Royals broke through in the fourth, stringing together a couple of bloop hits and a hard-hit double by former Marlin Jeff Conine to score three runs. The most damaging blow was a two-run single by Dean Palmer just out of the reach of second baseman Cairo that scored two runs.
The Royals chased Alvarez in the sixth when Jeff King led off with a bloop single, Palmer singled and Shane Mack snapped an 0-for-18 slump with a double rocketed past Smith at third base.
Alvarez allowed 10 hits in 5, walking one and striking out six. He threw 87 pitches.
"I thought he started out throwing the ball well," Rothschild said. "It looked like a couple of bloop hits kinda got to him, and then a couple balls were hit hard, and that was it."
Said Alvarez: "What can I say? A bunch of broken bats and they found the hole. There's really nothing I can do about it."
As the losses mount, Rothschild remains confident better times are ahead. "These guys showed you tonight they're not going to quit," he said. "We're not going to quit. We're just going to work harder.
"We will get through this, and we'll get through it, and we'll be better after we get through it. There's a whole lot of baseball to be played, and this team is going to be judged on the whole season, not on what happened the last two weeks."