When do the Tampa Bay Rays start to worry?

by Gary Shelton on July 24, 2017 · 4 comments

in general, Tampa Bay Rays

Who you gonna call? Cash needs to stop Rays' slump./JEFFREY S. KING

Who you gonna call? Cash needs to stop Rays' slump./JEFFREY S. KING

Monday, 2 a.m.

In the case of the Tampa Bay Rays, we are down to a couple of questions.

When do you start to sweat?

When does a slump become a new reality?

And can anyone please keep the ball on this side of the fence?

The Rays lost their fourth game in a row Sunday, and for the third straight game, the Texas Rangers roared from behind to win a one-run game. This time, it was 6-5, and given the Rays' record of a year ago, it might have let some doubts creep into your head.

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Boxberger took two of the losses in the three-game series./JEFFREY S. KING

Boxberger took two of the losses in the three-game series./JEFFREY S. KING

All in all, it was an ugly series, with reliever Brad Boxberger taking two of the three losses, with wild pitches and dropped fly balls. Oh, and home run balls. In three games, the Rays gave up seven home runs.

It was the 31st time this season the Rays have lost while holding a lead.

Morrison fields a grounder for the out in Rays' loss./JEFFREY S. KING

Morrison fields a grounder for the out in Rays' loss./JEFFREY S. KING

The sweep may not have been season-damaging, but it didn't help. Worse, there is suddenly a noise in an engine that had been running smoothly.

“We still control our own destiny,” said third baseman Evan Longoria. “I think everyone is doing a really good job of playing day-to-day. It's pretty easy to shut down after a game like last night, because it's a tough loss. I thought we came out with a lot of life today. We played well. It just got away from us again. It's tough, but we're getting back into the division (against Baltimore). We have to start something new.”

Cash said his team was one series from a turnaround.

“It's tough,” Cash said. “We've put ourselves in a position we want to be in. The way these three days have unfolded is not ideal, but I totally believe we can bounce back

Ramirez pitched well in relief for the Rays./JEFFREY S. KING

Ramirez pitched well in relief for the Rays./JEFFREY S. KING

with a good series. We're going to play good baseball and get those big hits, make the big pitches, and we'll be fine. There's a lot of baseball left. I'm not going to say it's not frustrating, but at the same time, this team is good. We'll respond.”

Steven Souza Jr. bristled when asked if he thought his team could turn its slump around.

“We just lost one series,” Souza said. “We won how many series? We played bad, pitched, hit bad, played bad defense. But it's just one series. You can't take it like it's the whole season.

“Listen, there are three games we just lost that we should have won. No doubt about it. Are they frustrating losses? Absolutely, but if we thought that we were going to win every single series and sweep everyone over the rest of the season...then you

As disappointing as the Rays were, Souza said it was just one series./JEFFREY S. KING

As disappointing as the Rays were, Souza said it was just one series./JEFFREY S. KING

guys are a little bit out of your mind. The goal is to make it to the playoffs. There are going to be some bumps along the run, but we have plenty to time left. We need to be consistent and this is a little hurdle that we have to get over and we'll be fine.”

The Rays struggled to score runs in the series, getting only 11 runs on 19 hits in the series against a team whose pitching has given up high scores most of the season.

“Offensively, we've got a couple of guys who just aren't seeing the ball well, for

Longoria thinks it's time for the Rays to start 'something new."/JEFFREY S. KING

Longoria thinks it's time for the Rays to start 'something new."/JEFFREY S. KING

whatever reason, right now,” Rays' manager Kevin Cash said. “It was a fairly quiet day offensively, mixed in with a couple of big hits, but other than that we're not piecing together many innings. We have to get back to doing that. I know we rely on the home runs, but we have to get back to getting some guys on base and finding ways to hit those balls in the gap and create a little havoc on the base paths.”

Mallex Smith, whose dropped fly ball hurt the Rays Saturday night, had two of Tampa Bay's six hits.

Pitcher Jake Odorizzi, coming off one of his best starts, lasted only four innings Sunday. He walked three and gave up four hits and three earned runs. It was the third time Odorizzi has lasted four innings or fewer.

“I got beat with my changeup today,” Odorizzi said. “Both homers were on changeups. The triple was on a changeup. I just didn't do a very good job of putting guys away with two strikes. I think all of those at-bats were two-strike at-bats as well. I just didn't put guys away.”

The Rays used five relief pitchers on Sunday, which could handicap them today against the Orioles, particularly with Blake Snell pitching. Kevin Gausman gets the start for Baltimore in the 7110 p.m. game at the Trop..

Mallex Smith doubled to right to give the Rays a lead./JEFFREY S. KING

Mallex Smith doubled to right to give the Rays a lead./JEFFREY S. KING

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Larry Beller July 24, 2017 at 5:23 pm

I play a lot of golf and when I’m going bad it seems like I’ll never get it back but then something clicks and I start playing good again. We’ve seen this team play well and put up good wins. Something needs to happen to bring them back. Let’s hope it happens soon.

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Gary Shelton July 24, 2017 at 8:38 pm

I would never insult a baseball team by comparing it to my golf game. I look like a rug-beater.

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Larry Beller July 24, 2017 at 4:13 am

Doesn’t it seem like certain teams have the Rays number? How many times has Texas and KC wiped out the Rays? I like Souza’s comments. It shows nobody is panicking and that’s a good thing.

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Gary Shelton July 24, 2017 at 4:55 pm

It does seem that certain teams match up better with some teams than others. I guess that’s time honored. batters don’t see the ball as well. Remember Jim Bouton writing about that. He had some guy who lit him up and would yell “how do you get anyone out with that (stuff) you throw?” But the guy couldn’t hit againt most of the rest of the league.

Across baseball, it’s the same. Some pitchers own certain batters, and some batters own certain pitchers.

I know the Bay area is filled with doubts today. After the last three years, how can it not be? But this is a good baseball team. It’s solid up the middle. It doesn’t hit enough, especially sliders and curves, but if Romo can the pen, I still think this team can hang around in the wild card race.

I’m at the Trop as I type this. I just listened to Cash and his scrum, and he was repeating that he thinks this team is good. I asked him “isn’t it good” that fans are so upset?

“Sure,” he said. “We know if we win, they’ll support us.”

I was after a deeper meaning. I think fans are upset in late July because the team has set them up for it. They’ve created an atmosphere of winning. It’s good that things are interesting. I hope they will be even later in the season.

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