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It's official: Devil Rays bottom out

Published Sep. 27, 2005

Steve Trachsel stumbles and the clutch hitting sputters in an 8-4 loss to Seattle that gives Tampa Bay the worst record in the major leagues.

The Devil Rays realized their worst fears on Sunday. Namely, that they are the worst.

For a team that had been wondering how low it could go, the answer fittingly came on a cloudy day at the opposite end of the country at the end of a long trip.

The Rays lost 8-4 to the Mariners before a sellout crowd of 45,264 at Safeco Field to officially claim the worst record in the majors at 14-28.

Detroit and Philadelphia both won Sunday to move past Tampa Bay.

"It's hard to believe with the players we have, but it's not hard to believe when you look at the way we've been playing," shortstop Kevin Stocker said.

"There's no question, coming out of spring training, we all thought this was a team that could compete for a playoff spot. We still believe that, but obviously we're not playing up to that expectation level. Certainly not right now."

The Rays completed their road trip to Texas and Seattle at 1-5 and have lost 10 of 13.

"I was just thinking to myself that, coming into spring training, I never would have imagined it would go like this," catcher John Flaherty said. "It just hasn't happened for us."

The game was a perfect capsule of what has gone wrong for the Devil Rays this season. The team thought it could move up the American League East standings after spending gobs of money to bring in starting pitching and power hitters.

The pitchers and sluggers have both disappointed and Sunday was a fine example.

Starter Steve Trachsel had his shortest outing of the season, departing in the fourth inning with Seattle leading 4-2.

"I felt fine, but I just wasn't getting anything over the plate, especially my splitter," Trachsel said. "I was behind in a lot of counts and that's not my style."

Trachsel had pitched 17 consecutive scoreless innings coming into the road trip, but surrendered 19 hits, three walks and eight earned runs in 8 innings in Texas and Seattle.

"You could see early on that unless he settled in, it had a chance to be a long day," manager Larry Rothschild said.

As the middle relief faltered, the Mariners took an 8-2 lead into the seventh. But even then, the Rays had chances.

They scored two runs on a Gerald Williams double, and loaded the bases with one out.

Greg Vaughn and Jose Canseco, with a combined 742 career homers between them, each had a chance to tie it with a homer.

Seattle reliever Arthur Rhodes struck them out in succession.

"When you get behind in a game like that, all you want to do is get the tying run to the plate. And we did, we just didn't get it done," Rothschild said. "Greg has done a tremendous job all year, especially in that situation. But you're not going to be able to do it all the time.

"Somebody has to pick him up. That's how you score runs. After he has a tough at-bat and has good swings, somebody else has to come up."

The seventh was Tampa Bay's best chance because the Rays accomplished little else against Seattle starter Aaron Sele.

In retrospect, it makes perfect sense why Sele turned down a $30-million contract offer from Tampa Bay.

He had a better chance of fattening up his record pitching against the Devil Rays instead of for them.

Sele spurned a four-year offer from the Rays in the off-season to accept a $28-million deal with Baltimore. When the deal fell through, he landed in Seattle.

After pitching into the seventh inning to the get the win Sunday, Sele has a 3-0 record with a 1.93 ERA in his career against Tampa Bay.

"We had some opportunities late in the game, but things just don't seem to be going our way," Flaherty said. "When you're on a roll, everything happens for the best. We're doing the opposite of that."

Now that they have hit bottom, perhaps the Rays can begin to ascend. The problem is that there is a mighty long way to go and the first step seems to be the toughest.

"We absolutely (stink) right now. And I (stink) worse than anybody," Canseco said. "I don't even know how to change it."