Braves whack slumping Rays again

by Gary Shelton on July 9, 2023

in general

Franco stole the Rays' only run./TIM WIRT

Sunday, 4 a.m.

Every day, they fall a little farther, a little faster. Every day, their embarrassment grows.

Every day, they seem a greater distance from the dominance that defined their early season.

The Tampa Bay Rays, presently, are not a very good baseball team. They are helpless, hapless, hopeless. They are punchless, clueless, direction-less. Lately, they are winless.

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The Rays lost their seventh straight game Saturday night, and it wasn’t close. They fell 6-1 to the Atlanta Braves, keeping alive the majors’ most prolific plummet. Once again, they could not hit. Once again, one bad inning on the mound did them in. Yes, they continue to lead the AL East, but at this rate, who knows how long that will last?

The Rays are now 19-19 in their games since the start of June. They are 17-15 in interleague play. They are 14-16 in one-run games. In other words, there is a lot of mediocrity going on.

The Rays once-huge lead in the AL East is down to two games over Baltimore.

How bad has the seven-game losing streak been? The Rays are hitting .156 as a team. They've scored 16 times in the seven games and have struck out 83 times.

This was perhaps the clearest they have been dominated. The Rays had just four hits and struck out 13 times. Spencer Strider smothered the offense, which has happened a lot lately, to win his 11th game.

The Rays didn’t score until the eighth inning when Wander Franco, effectively, stole a run. He walked and went to second on Luke Raley’s high chopper to third. But with third base open, Franco kept running to take third. The Braves Matt Olson threw the ball away to allow the run.

Rookie Taj Bradley started well for the Rays, retiring the first nine he faced. However, in the fourth, Ronald Acuna doubled to open the inning, and Bradley seemed unable to deal with it. He gave up three more hits and two walks to the Braves in the inning. Sean Murphy had the big blow with a three-run homer, his second in two nights.

The Braves scored two more runs in the ninth when Franco threw a ball away at second base, allowing  Michael Harris to score from second, followed by a single by Acuna.

The Rays and Braves wind up their first halves today at 1:40 p.m. at Tropicana Field. Zach Eflin will start for the Rays against Bryce Elder.

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