ST. PETERSBURG — After the Rays officially eliminated themselves from playoff contention with Friday's 4-3 loss to the White Sox, manager Joe Maddon said it was time to start thinking about gassing up his RV.
His plan seems fitting after the Rays (74-80) have looked like they have nothing left in the tank from the push to come back from 18 games under .500 in early June. They have led in each of their past 13 games but have won only seven. Friday they gave away a three-run lead in front of an announced crowd of 17,540 at Tropicana Field.
"Lack of fuel, maybe," Maddon said.
That plus a continued trend of two season-long problems: missed opportunities on offense combined with one rough inning on the mound.
The missed chances were plentiful Friday after Logan Forsythe cracked a two-run double in the first and blasted a solo home run in the fourth to put the Rays up 3-0.
Yunel Escobar, James Loney and Jose Molina hit three consecutive singles later in the fourth, but Escobar was thrown out trying to go from first to third. Then Kevin Kiermaier lined into an inning-ending double play.
"It was a tough one for us," Forsythe said.
And Chicago made them pay quickly.
Rays starter Jeremy Hellickson began to unravel with a leadoff walk to No. 9 hitter Marcus Semien in the fifth. Alexei Ramirez and Jose Abreu singled in runs, and Avisail Garcia blasted a two-run double over Ben Zobrist's head and off the wall. Garcia's hit gave the White Sox the lead for good. It was the fifth time they've blown at least a 3-0 lead during this stretch, and it ended Hellickson's night after 41/3 innings.
"Command — I don't know where it went that fifth inning," said Hellickson, who failed to get out of the fifth inning for the third time in his past five starts.
Hellickson extended his streak to 12 consecutive home starts without a win, tied for second in team history, behind Scott Kazmir's 14 in a row. He hasn't had a home win since July 2013, and the Rays have lost his last eight starts. That's the longest streak by a Rays pitcher since the Devil Rays era ended.
Reliever Steve Geltz's three strikeouts in 12/3 perfect innings led a bullpen effort that kept the Rays in it, but the offense wasted two more chances.
After Kiermaier knocked a two-out single to left in the seventh, Zobrist popped the first pitch he saw to shallow right. Semien dropped the ball but threw out Kiermaier as the speedy rookie tried to score the tying run.
"I never criticize (Kiermaier) because he's always aggressive," Maddon said.
Escobar tried to start a one-out rally in the ninth with a single to left. He got to second on a wild pitch in the dirt but couldn't advance farther. Loney and Kiermaier struck out to end the game and give Maddon an early start on his RV road trip.
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"Very strange," Maddon said. "It's no fun to not be involved in the postseason. Just no fun."