A box of baseballs resting in his lap and an ice bag wrapped around his shoulder, Greg Vaughn willingly accepted blame.
"I haven't been doing my job," he said after the Rays' 2-1 loss to Anaheim on Thursday at Tropicana Field. "I don't care what the situation is I get paid to come through."
In their thirdconsecutive loss, this one before a spirited 19,960 fans, Rays batters stranded 10 runners and failed to get timely hits while their bullpen delivered another solid performance to keep the game close.
Add to that, the health of starting pitcher Bryan Rekar now is in question.
The right-hander was pulled after one inning because of persistent stiffness in his right shoulder. He was scheduled for an MRI and results are expected today.
"It's something that's been recurring for a while," said Rekar, who is 1-11 this season. "It's just this time I couldn't battle through it. We're just going to play it by ear."
Manager Hal McRae said trainers informed him Wednesday that Rekar had been having trouble getting loose during a bullpen session.
"He said he was okay and he thought he could give us a short outing," McRae said. "We were going to try to get by."
It turned out to be shorter than anticipated. Rekar threw 17 pitches and gave up one hit in the first.
"All I was doing was hurting the team and maybe in the long term hurting myself so I figured we should just shut down a little bit," he said. "It's just really tight. But everything's pretty much in good shape."
McRae has enjoyed stability in the rotation since Joe Kennedy arrived from Triple-A Durham on June 1. If Rekar is placed on the disabled list, Paul Wilson likely will slip back into the rotation.
"The choices are limited, options are limited," McRae said.
With Rekar out, the Rays relied on Jeff Wallace for a career-high 4 innings. The left-hander allowed two runs on five hits, striking out four.
"What Wally did was give us a big lift," Vaughn said. "He kept it close and gave us a chance."
Wallace held Anaheim scoreless until the fifth inning.
Catcher Shawn Wooten doubled to left and rightfielder Orlando Palmeiro walked.
Benji Gil hit a double to center that scored both runners to make it 2-0. Wallace then struck out centerfielder Darin Erstad with two runners on.
Anaheim won with splendid pitching from its starters and relievers.
Starter Jarrod Washburn (8-4) pitched 6 innings, gave up one run on eight hits and struck out seven. Closer Troy Percival pitched a perfect ninth for his 25th save and second in as many days.
"You have to feel fortunate to come in and win two ballgames when your offense isn't getting it done," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said.
Tampa Bay failed to take the lead in the second inning when third baseman Russ Johnson and catcher Mike DiFelice singled. With runners on first and third with one out, Washburn got shortstop Andy Sheets and Jason Tyner to strike out to end the inning.
The Rays scored their second run of the series two innings later.
Tyner led off the fourth with a bunt down the first-base line that Washburn fielded and threw wildly past first.
The ball rolled into the Rays bullpen and Tyner ran to third. Two batters later, Randy Winn doubled to make it 2-1.
Tampa Bay loaded the bases with no outs in the sixth but again failed to score. Sheets struck out, Tyner popped to shallow leftfield and Felix Martinez grounded out to third.
"Unfortunately for the last two games we've played good baseball and didn't get anything to show for it except for two losses," Johnson said. "If the guys keep playing the way they're playing and start mixing in some timely hits here and there, things are going to work out."
The expansion 1962 Mets finished with the most losses in modern baseball history (since 1900). A look at how this year's Rays, at their current winning percentage, project against the worst losers of all-time:
Team Lg. W L Pct.
NY/1962+ NL 40 120 .250
PHI/1916 AL 36 117 .235
BOS/1935 NL 38 115 .248
WAS/1904 AL 38 113 .252
NY/1965 NL 50 112 .309
PIT/1952 NL 42 112 .273
TB/2001 AL 51 111 .315