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Rays fall in 13 to Red Sox for 11th straight extra-inning loss

Boston Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts (2) steals second base against Rays second baseman Tim Beckham during the third inning. [AP photo]
Boston Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts (2) steals second base against Rays second baseman Tim Beckham during the third inning. [AP photo]

ST. PETERSBURG — Add to the list of hard-to-explain items about the Rays' season that is soon to be officially extinguished this odd factoid: Sunday was the 11th straight extra-inning game they have lost.

"Hard to believe," DH John Jaso said.

"Nuts," offered outfielder Steven Souza Jr.

The 2-0 final in 13 innings against the Red Sox was the handiwork of two rookie pitchers, Enny Romero allowing three straight one-out singles, then Andrew Bellatti, working a third straight game for the first time at any level, allowing a two-run single to Rusney Castillo.

But really, it was a team effort. The Rays managed only three — three — hits for the long afternoon, one an infield single, through the first 11 innings, getting only three runners as far as second base.

Perplexed initially by the fastball/slow curve combo of Rich Hill, a 35-year-old lefty journeyman making his first big-league start in six years, the Rays hit only a couple of balls hard against Boston's six-man bullpen brigade, a showing that is, in a way, worse than being no-hit by a pitcher who had extraordinary stuff.

More painfully, the Rays did it on a day when their starter, Drew Smyly, was dealing, striking out a career-high-tying 11 (all swinging) in six innings.

The end result is a 69-73 record, dropping the Rays to within one game of last place in the American League East and six back from the second wild-card spot — as if that still matters — with 20 games to play.

A big part of their situation is their 15 games that have gone to extra innings. They should be breaking even in those games. Their record is 2-13, worst in the majors.

The 11 straight losses is on the verge of being historic. The last team to lose 11 straight in one season was the 2012 Astros, on their way to 107 losses. Only one team has lost more, the Elias Sports Bureau says: the 1969 expansion Montreal Expos, who lost all of their 12 on their way to 110 losses.

Both of those were woefully bad teams. The Rays view themselves, at least for another few days, as contenders (or at least good enough to "play meaningful games in September"), built on pitching and defense to weather tight games.

And, yet, 11 in a row?

"I wasn't really thinking about it," manager Kevin Cash said. "I know it gets brought up after we ultimately lose all these games. I think each game is unique in its own.

"Sometimes you can fault the pitching aspect, the defense aspect or the offense. (Sunday) I thought the pitching was very good, and when we attempted to get outs, we got outs. We just weren't able to string anything together offensively. … When you put zeros up through 12, you expect to win those games."

Cash is right about that, illustrating the randomness of baseball. The Rays since Aug. 1 had had the second-highest batting average in the majors (.282, behind Boston's .300) and ranked in the top six in on-base percentage and slugging.

Further illustrating that randomness: losing 11 consecutive extra-inning games.

"I don't know what to say about that," Souza said. "You think about it, I mean, you flip those 11 games and we could be, what? Seven games over .500? It's just the way it is. It's frustrating. Nothing you can do. We've had opportunities. We just need to cash in on them."

Clearly, the streak, capped by Sunday's 2-0 loss, left the Rays more than just frustrated.

"It's tough," Smyly said, "when you lose by one so many times."

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