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'EMBARRASSING' WILL DO

It may not even be strong enough to describe a horrid series finale.

It was hard to imagine the Devil Rays feeling any lower than they did Saturday night, having given up 24 runs in losing both ends of a long day-night doubleheader.

But that's one thing about the Rays: You can never say never.

They gave up 21 runs in one game (in eight innings actually) Sunday to cap an embarrassing lost weekend in New York with a humiliating 21-4 loss to the Yankees.

"To sum it all up, I guess you can say it's an old-fashioned a- - whipping," outfielder Jonny Gomes said. "You can use whatever words you want. You could use four-letter words, 13-letter words - they could all fit somewhere in these three games."

The 21 runs allowed Sunday were one shy of the franchise high, but the Rays pitchers got into the books several other ways in losing three of the four games, including a record 25 hits allowed Sunday (including Alex Rodriguez's 498th career homer and five others), the 38 runs in back-to-back games (the most since the Braves allowed 39 in 1977) and the 49 for the series.

"It's embarrassing," said James Shields, who delivered an abysmal start, allowing 10 runs in 31/3 innings. "Absolutely embarrassing. We're better than that. This wasn't us this weekend."

Manager Joe Maddon didn't have much in the way of explaining the dramatic reversal of momentum as the Rays (38-59) won Friday's opener 14-4, then lost the next three (in a span of 28 hours) by a combined 45-12.

"We just didn't pitch well; obviously that's an understatement. They just wore us out. They just beat us up every which way you can," Maddon said. "I have no wonderful things to say about this one - that's a beating."

More concerning, there may not be anything they can do to make it better. The Rays have already used 21 pitchers in compiling a major-league worst 5.99 ERA, have what statistically is one of the worst bullpens of all time with a relief ERA of 6.64 and have tried shuffling pitchers between the bullpen and rotation and majors and minors with little success. Plus Jay Witasick appears hurt, and Casey Fossum is on paternity leave.

Executive vice president Andrew Friedman and Maddon will spend today's off day talking about the situation, but there may be no more changes beyond bringing back Jason Hammel and putting him in the rotation.

"With the off day following a situation like this, plus we have Jay with an elbow problem, so right now there are discussions to be had, and we will," Maddon said. "Is anything going to be done immediately? I'm not quite sure yet. We're trying to make this thing better all the time, and Andrew is always in pursuit of doing that, and we have to. There's no question, we have to. It's just a tough one. The four games in three days, it exposed us."

As bad as Saturday went, the Rays were confident with Shields, their developing ace, on the mound Sunday as they sought a series split. But that didn't last long as Shields uncharacteristically walked the first batter and never got in much of a rhythm. He said he was making good pitches the Yankees were turning into hits, but the results were ugly.

The Rays actually led 1-0 (on Carlos Pena's 23rd homer) in the second and were tied at 3 in the fourth (on another big hit by Josh Wilson). But Shields got out only one of the eight batters he faced in the fourth, and by the time Fossum got the last out of the 29-minute inning, a season-high 10 runs had scored.

"I let the team down, I let myself down, I pretty much lost the game for us in that one inning," Shields said. "It's pretty embarrassing."

That's one way to put it.

Marc Topkin can be reached at topkin@sptimes.com. View his blog at blogs.tampabay.com/rays.

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