ST. PETERSBURG — A recent stretch against a handful of top pitchers finally caught up to the Rays on Wednesday.
They mustered only two hits — by their first two batters of the game — through the first six innings off Milwaukee RHP Yovani Gallardo and finished with their AL-worst 13th shutout loss of the year, 5-0.
"He was pretty much in control," Rays CF Desmond Jennings said of Gallardo.
With seven shutout innings Wednesday, Gallardo extended his scoreless streak to 162/3. He retired 13 Rays in a row at one point in getting his first win since June 19.
Manager Joe Maddon, whose team faced Matt Garza and Kyle Lohse in the first two games of the series, said Gallardo commanded his fastball well and mixed in good curveballs and sliders to hold the Rays to four hits.
"He pitched on the edges extremely well," Maddon said.
And that helped him escape a first-inning threat.
Jennings and DH Ben Zobrist led off with singles, but No. 3 hitter Matt Joyce flied out and Evan Longoria grounded into a 6-4-3 double play.
"It could have definitely created some momentum in our favor, no question," Maddon said.
The Rays had a good opportunity in the ninth against Jeremy Jeffress with one-out singles by Joyce and Longoria. 2B Logan Forsythe loaded the bases with a two-out walk, but SS Yunel Escobar struck out to end the game.
LOOKING TO THE MIDDLE: The Rays' Nos. 3-4-5 hitters had three of Tampa Bay's seven hits but failed to drive in a run. Maddon said Jennings and Zobrist have batted well recently and the bottom of the order has produced.
But the 3-4-5 hitters are batting .190 (8-for-42) over the past four games and .226 (14-for-62) through the first six games of this homestand, which continues Friday against the Angels.
"We need to get the guys that are really able to drive in a lot of runs toasty," Maddon said. "The bottom's been great.
"I can't dispute the bottom of the batting order, but we need to get the 3-4-5, 2-3-4-5 in synch."
PERALTA RETURNS: RHP Joel Peralta made his first appearance since returning from the DL this week following his bout with the mosquito-borne chikungunya virus. He threw a perfect ninth inning with one strikeout. The club's all-time leader in appearances hasn't given up a run in 24 of his past 28 appearances.
MEDICAL MATTERS: C Ryan Hanigan (left oblique) is not scheduled to make a minor-league rehabilitation appearance Friday but will instead work out with the team at Tropicana Field. The Rays had hoped he'd be back for the start of the Angels series.
SPLISH SPLASH: Brewers LF Khris Davis' ground-rule double in the eighth inning bounced into the touch tank in right-centerfield. It marked the first time a ball had bounced into the 10,000-gallon tank as a double. Three home runs have splashed into it since it opened in July 2006.
MISCELLANY: 1B James Loney extended his on-base streak to 19 games with a single in the seventh inning. … Escobar committed his 10th error of the season on a potential double-play ball in the third. He had seven errors last year. … The five runs allowed by the Rays were as many as they had given up in their previous four games combined and the most in one game since Toronto's eight July 11. … By taking the first two games against Milwaukee, the Rays have won eight of their past nine series. … The crowd featured about 9,000 children from parks and recreation summer camps.
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Contact Matt Baker at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @MBakerTBTimes.