ST. PETERSBURG — Well, that was a mess.
An 8-2 loss to the Red Sox Wednesday that left the Rays 7½ games and maybe out of the American League East race was marked by more offensive impotency and some brutally sloppy play, and marred by injuries to two key players, Jake Odorizzi during the game and Lucas Duda before it even started, though never apparently serious.
Oh, yes, and only 11,853 turned out at the Trop — all together now, yes, on the night before school started — to see the supposed showdown between the AL East contenders.
So where does this leave the Rays?
At 58-57, pretty much around the .500 mark many pegged them for, still very much in the mix for the second AL wild-card (one game behind the Mariners, tied with the Royals), but at best on the fringe of the division race, with the Yankees between them and the Red Sox.
"You're never going to hear that we're counting ourselves out of winning a division," manager Kevin Cash said. "To do that, we have to play better though. A lot better."
And that's got to start with the offense, which after matching its production from the previous four days has now scored a whopping four runs in its last five games.
Four. Runs. In. Five. Games.
How can that happen?
Well, going hitless in your last 28 at-bats with a runner in scoring position is a big key.
The Rays had some hope that facing Rick Porcello, even with the 2016 Cy Young Award on his mantle (assuming Kate Upton hadn't put a bounty on it), would get them unlocked, given that they'd beaten him three times already this season.
But after a double and a walk in a first inning, they went down 1-2-3 in four straight innings, seeing only eight, 11, seven and nine pitches (and all for strikes in the fifth, rather immaculately).
And Cash was taking back some of the things he had said before the game in defense of the hitters, as they were expanding their zones Wednesday and missing pitches they should have it.
And it's not like things are going to get easier, as the Indians roll into town with one of the AL's best rotations for four games starting tonight.
That the Rays turned in such a sloppy effort defensively was oddly appropriate in that they spent an hour on the field Wednesday afternoon in a refresher session on fundamentals.
Corey Dickerson had a missed play in left, Trevor Plouffe was involved in two misplays at first and catcher Wilson Ramos had all kinds of issues behind the plate, as three runs scored on pitches that got away from him. Coupled with another 0-for-3 night that dropped his average to .181 and it seems that hamstring issue that popped up in Anaheim after the break may be a bigger problem.
The Rays were somewhat optimistic after the game that Odorizzi would make his next start on Monday, but it sure didn't look that way when he was struck on the right foot by a line drive at the start of the fifth and had to be helped off the field, unable to put any weight on it.
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Cash acknowledged his availability could change depending on how he feels when he comes in today and over the next couple days. Whether that would lead to a call-up of prospect Brent Honeywell or Ryan Yarbrough or Yonny Chirinos from Triple A would be interesting to see.
Odorizzi's performance, in his first start since coming off the DL for a back issue, wasn't particularly encouraging before he got hurt. He needed 74 pitches to get through the first three innings, with the same issues stemming from foul balls and deep counts that plagued him previously.
The Rays were also without first baseman/DH Duda who, symbolic of how things are going, was injured taking grounders pregame. The bruised left thumb knocked him out of Wednesday's lineup, and is likely to sideline him again tonight.
Having lost 13 of their last 20, with first place a long way away, what will it take for the Rays to get turned around?
"Just a win," Odorizzi said. "Winning usually cures just about everything. … Even with us playing this bad we're still only a game out of the wild card. Things could be a lot worse. We just need to get on that good roll and start playing a little bit better and we can be looking good. I have a lot of faith in us. It's just a rough patch. We have a month and a half or more to go. We need to pick ourselves up and get back out there tomorrow."