ST. PETERSBURG — The good news for the Rays, at least, is that Wednesday’s matinee is their last game of the season against the Mariners.
Unless they meet in the American League playoffs, which at this point might be the Rays’ worst-case scenario.
The Mariners continue to have their way with the Rays this season, winning all four games in Seattle in June and the first two of this series.
Add in that the Mariners had Yusei Kikuchi on the mound given the Rays’ ongoing struggles against left-handed starters — and that the Rays had a second straight uncharacteristically sloppy night in the field — and the 4-2 Tampa Bay loss was hardly a surprise.
“Look, they’ve got our number,” manager Kevin Cash said. “I don’t know what else to say. It’s frustrating losing games. I don’t care who it is. And I don’t care how many times it’s one team, if it’s lopsided one way or the other.
“We’re just not playing very good baseball, and they are. We’re in a lot of these ballgames. But being in doesn’t count. So we’ve got to find a way to salvage a season series (Wednesday).”
The loss dropped the Rays to 64-45, but they retained their one-game lead in the American League East as the Red Sox lost again at Detroit.
The Rays’ back-to-back bad performances against the Mariners stand out even more compared to their showing four days earlier, as they blasted the Yankees and ace Gerrit Cole on Thursday, then swept the Red Sox over the weekend.
“We were playing just great baseball on both sides of the ball,” infielder Joey Wendle said. “I think we were on a bit of a high coming off of that, and maybe we let our guard down a little bit and kind of, for whatever reason, didn’t quite bring it the first two games to this series.”
The Rays’ inability to beat the Mariners has been an ongoing story, as they’ve lost eight of the last nine games and 31 of the last 45. But this season it has been even more puzzling as the Rays have faltered in several phases, with the Mariners delivering key hits, getting the big outs, making the pitches.
“They’ve been scrappy,” Wendle said. “It seems like they really have been playing well when we’ve lined up against them. On the flip side, we have not played well.”
The other issue for the Rays is facing lefty starters. Kikuchi gave up Randy Arozarena’s 16th homer on his first pitch, and just an unearned run after that in getting through six. The Rays are 24-20 against lefty starters (vs. 40-24 against righties) and rank in the bottom five of the majors in average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage against lefties.
“I don’t have a good answer for you,” Cash said. “You look at what we’ve done against left-handed starters and it’s just not ideal. It’s not consistent with the track record of the players that we have. It is one of those things that you continue to scratch your head at.”
They need to step it up overall, going 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position in the two latest losses.
Rookie Luis Patino started for the Rays and was not overly sharp, using 50 pitches in the first two innings and 100 through five. He allowed the tying run in the second, then gave up two homers in a five-pitch span in the fourth that put the Mariners ahead to stay.
With all else that didn’t go well for the Rays, the had to face the reliever they just traded to Seattle, Diego Castillo — or as Seattle manager Scott Servais is calling him, “Big Diesel” — in the ninth, and he closed it out around a two-out walk.
“Just seeing Diego, he was just here closing for us not that long ago,” Wendle said. “So that was a little odd and not so fun seeing him on the other side of the mound there.”
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