SEATTLE - Before Saturday’s game Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon sat in the visitors dugout at Safeco Field and summed up his team’s plight on this West Coast road trip in nine easy to understand words.
“This has been our worst baseball of the year,” he said.
Nothing happened later in the day to change that opinion.
The Rays played another listless game and lost 6-2 to the Seattle Mariners.
That’s 11 losses in the Rays’ last 14 games, including seven out of the first nine games on this road trip. They now hold just a one-game lead over the Baltimore Orioles and Cleveland Indians for the second wild card spot in the American League.
“The good news is we have only one more game on the West Coast,” Maddon said.
Rays starter Chris Archer was pulled after allowing three runs in four innings because Maddon said he didn’t see it getting any better for Archer and not because the Rays are closely monitoring the mount of innings the rookie pitches.
“I really felt three runs were enough,” Maddon said, “and I thought Alex (Torres) and Jamie (Wright) could keep it at three and allow us to get back into the game. Their add-on runs really hurt.”
Torres allowed two runs and Wright allowed one.
A long two-run homer from Evan Longoria made it a 4-2 game in the sixth inning, but the Mariners answered with two more runs in their half of the inning.
The Rays had runners at second and third with no outs in the seventh inning thanks to walks to David DeJesus and Jose Lobaton and a wild pitch that moved both runners into scoring position. But Yunel Escobar flied out to short right field, Desmond Jennings popped up to shortstop and Ben Zobrist’s drive to right field came down near the warning track.
The Rays gave away Friday’s game with bad baserunning, errors and their nearly nightly quota of empty at-bats with runners in scoring position.
On Saturday, they were stifled by James Paxton, the Mariners left-handed rookie who was making his major league debut. Paxton held the Rays to four hits, including Longoria’s homer, in six innings.
“Oh it’s never fun,” Maddon said. “It’s somewhat frustrating. Again, I have full faith in our guys. Fortunately this season has several more weeks to go and there’s plenty of time to right this thing and maybe get as hot as we are cold. I look forward to that.”
Archer lost for the second straight start. He lasted 3 2/3 innings against the Angels last week when he allowed five runs on nine hits. On Saturday, he allowed four hits and three runs (two earned), and those came on long home runs by Justin Smoak in the second inning and Kendrys Morales in the third.
He felt he could have pitched deeper into the game.
“I understand they are trying to do what’s best for the team,” Archer said. “Right now it’s beyond personal development. We’re trying to win games. If they felt I wasn’t the best person to do that from the fifth (inning) on that’s what they felt.”
“It’s frustrating, but there’s no better team or manager or coaching staff to play for under these circumstances,” Archer said. “It’s not like they’re adding any pressure. We’re just riding out this wave of tough games, and hopefully we get back on track (today), get that off-day and start rolling against Boston (on Tuesday) as well.”
But when and how will the Rays get back on track?
“(When we) score more than the other team,” James Loney said.
It was Loney’s fielding error on a grounder by Seattle leadoff hitter Brad Miller in the first inning that led to the first run of the game. For Loney to make a fielding error is something that can cause close followers of this team to say, “Here we go again.”
“It’s awkward to see that, but I really refrain from ‘Here we go again’ thoughts, “ Maddon said. “I’m always looking for ‘Here we go again like we had been in’ a positive way.”
And how can the Rays get back to that?
“Just staying after it,” Maddon said. “These are those kind of moments that if you do quit on yourself than it goes away. We’ll continue to fight through and all of a sudden you come out on the other side. It’s truly that simple and difficult at the same time. Effort’s good, preparation’s good.
“Everything’s good, we’re just unable to get the hit when we need to. I know we gave up six runs, but sometimes you got to score seven.”