ST. PETERSBURG — The hitters haven’t been hitting for a while, the pitchers have had issues pitching and the manager is trying to manage as best he can.
For the Rays to salvage, or save, their season, GM Erik Neander may need to so some serious GM-ing.
The trade deadline is a little more than a week away, the Rays clearly seem to need some help.
A hitter to resuscitate the moribund offense. A reliever, or maybe two, to restore some sense of confidence in a bullpen that is in a constant state of taxed and flux.
What they have now isn’t working anymore as Monday’s 9-4 defeat by Red Sox – which was worse than that – was their sixth loss in the last seven games, and 22nd in their last 38.
“Obviously not too much went well for us today,’’ Rays manager Kevin Cash said.
The Rays have dropped from leading the AL East to trailing not just the comfortably on top Yankees but also the Indians and the A’s in the wild-card race. And with the Red Sox now just a game behind them.
Monday, in the first of six games over 11 days, they looked to be teams going in different directions. As were the fans, apparently, as an announced crowd of only 10,966 made it to the Trop.
The Red Sox came out swinging early and took advantage of Jalen Beeks’ rough first start for the Rays after 32 relief appearances, scoring seven runs in the third inning, including hitting three home runs, and taking an 8-0 lead by the fourth.
The Rays (57-46) came out meekly, managing two infield hits through the first seven innings against Sox starter Eduardo Rodriguez, and scoring all their runs in the final two frames. Then again, Tuesday being the 10th anniversary of Mark Buehrle’s perfect game against them for the White Sox is a reminder it could have been worse.
Offense has been an ongoing problem for the Rays, as they’ve scored only 17 runs over their last seven games and given up 41 in the latest example of their woes.
“Guys are pressing, there’s no doubt,’’ Cash said. “For good reason, because they care a lot. It’s just not going our way right now when we’re coming up to hit.’’
As hopeful as they are that having Matt Duffy healthy and back in the lineup as soon as Tuesday will help, they may have lost Yandy Diaz to injury as he was headed for X-rays and a doctor visit after leaving the game in severe pain after fouling a ball off his foot in the ninth.
The Rays had Beeks start against his ex-mates on Monday, rather than pitch behind an opener as he had since joining them last July, mostly because the bullpen was thin on coverage and they didn’t want to get caught short.
That didn’t work out too well either. Beeks zipped through the first two innings but hit a wall in the third as the Sox, seeing him for the second time through the order, pounded out seven runs, hitting three home runs (by J.D. Martinez, Andrew Benintendi and Sam Travis) as he slogged through 40 pitches.
“I just didn’t complete pitches at as high of a tick that I would like to, and they’re a good team, so when you make a couple mistakes they turn around and hit three home runs that inning,’’ Beeks said.
“Losing always feels like a struggle, obviously. I didn’t really give my team a chance to win. I’ve got to do better on my part and that’s what I’m going to continue to work on.”
Cash said it seemed like something changed in the third inning, noting Beeks was “fighting his mechanics” in trying to get his body in line.
Beeks said that wasn’t the issue: “I didn’t feel anything mechanically, just not executing pitches.'
The Rays were down 8-0 by the fourth, so their rally for three runs in the eighth seemed a bit fallow. Especially when Cash stuck with a plan to have rookie infielder Mike Brosseau pitch the ninth even though Diego Castillo was available. But with the bullpen short, they wanted to save whoever they could.
Cash said it was “a tough decision” but the cutoff point was being within four runs, or one potential grand slam swing. It worked out, as Brosseau, though throwing mostly in the 60-75 mph range, allowed only one run.
Hitting coach Chad Mottola said he was confident the Rays could swing their was out of the latest funk.
“It happens by a product of it happening, as bad as that sounds,’’ he said. “It takes a couple good at bats. A couple ones to go through. A couple of the cheap home runs that were hit against us, if that’s a fair thing to say, that we get for us. It’s just when you play 162 (games), some work with you, some work against you. And right now largely it’s been against us. Next thing you know it will be for us. And we’ll right back where we need to be.’’
As rough a stretch as it’s been, Cash maintained confidence, as he has to, that they can get there.
“One game can help turn that around,’’ he said. “Go out and have an inning like they just had (Tuesday). That would probably make a lot of people feel better.’’
Contact Marc Topkin at email@example.com. Follow @TBTimes_Rays.