BALTIMORE — Manager Kevin Cash politely interrupting a question about the “really good opportunity” the Rays had in the sixth inning — when Vidal Brujan led off with a single, with Yandy Diaz and Ji-Man Choi to follow — said plenty.
“If those are good opportunities, you’re right. That just shows how it’s going,” Cash said. “That’s not a ‘good’ opportunity. But I understand.”
The ongoing ineffectiveness of the Rays offense, which doomed them again Friday in a 1-0 loss to the Orioles and wasted a strong start by Shane Baz, has indeed made many things relative.
How that specific opportunity unfolded — in what at the time was a scoreless game — was indicative of how bad things are going for the Rays, who have several hitters cold and others sidelined by injury.
Brujan, hitting leadoff for a second straight game, delivered his second hit of the night. Diaz, who has been having some of their best swings, laced a 103 mph liner, but right at centerfielder Cedric Mullins.
Next was Choi, another of the few Rays hitters delivering quality at-bats. Cash gave Brujan the green light to steal second, but he didn’t get that good of a jump and was thrown out, the majors-most 19th time the Rays have been caught stealing (to go along with 44 successful steals, third-most).
Then Choi lined a ball into the rightfield corner but tried to stretch it to a double. After initially being called safe, he was ruled out on a quick replay reversal. It was majors-most 30th out the Rays have made trying to take extra bases.
“Maybe we’re trying to do too much with some of our key offensive guys being out, maybe pressing,” outfielder Brett Phillips said. “I know I am. But it’s one of those things. It’s an opportunity for guys to step up and produce and, unfortunately right now, maybe pressing too hard and trying to do too much.”
The loss was the Rays’ season-high-matching fourth straight. It was somewhat similar to the past three in that the Rays failed to support great pitching. In the four losses, the first three to the Yankees, the Rays allowed a total of nine runs, just four earned. But they scored only four and were shut out twice. They have lost six of seven on the road trip and eight of their past 12, dropping them to 35-29 and 12-1/2 games out in the American League East.
Friday’s only run came in the seventh.
Baz, starting on his 23rd birthday and with his parents in the stands, did all he could, more than making up for his rough season debut Saturday in Minnesota, when he was done after allowing five runs in the third.
Friday, Baz worked six impressive innings, getting better as he went, allowing only two hits (and one hit batter) while walking none and striking out seven, including his last three.
“It’s a lot more what I expect,” he said.
Cash said there was a lot to like.
“He looked good,’’ Cash said. “Early on, he wasn’t finding it quite as good. But after the second inning, it felt like he got in a good rhythm and really did a nice job. … So just a good mix and very, very good stuff.”
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Six innings (and 74 pitches) were enough for Baz, who was sidelined after undergoing March arthroscopic surgery to remove a loose body from his elbow. With his options limited after a heavy bullpen day Thursday, Cash went next to rookie reliever Calvin Faucher, who has been inconsistent in his first five outings.
Faucher allowed a one-out double to Ryan Mountcastle, acknowledging he “got too cute” after getting ahead in the count. A single to rookie Adley Rutschman followed, with Mountcastle sliding in ahead of Phillips’ “do-or-die” throw that Phillips said took “an unfortunate” bounce.
“We like Faucher and, given where we’re at in the bullpen and how much we used some guys (Thursday), felt like his stuff was going to be a nice complement to quieting that lineup,” Cash said.
Once again, the problem wasn’t what the Rays gave up. It was that they didn’t score enough.
“We definitely want to put up runs for the backbone of the team, which is our pitching,” Phillips said. “But right now, it’s just not happening.”
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