OAKLAND - Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon mentioned the offense 10 times Sunday during his postgame interview session that lasted nearly nine minutes.
He also talked about the pitching and the defense and the baserunning blunder by Wil Myers. But no matter where his answers began they almost all ended back at the central theme to the Rays' losing ways.
“We just didn't play enough offense,” Maddon said.
Or, “We just have to play better offense.”
The Rays' struggles continued on the West Coast during a 5-1 loss to the A's at the O.co Coliseum that dropped them 2½ games behind the A's in the American League wild card standings and 5½ games behind the Red Sox in the AL East.
Tampa Bay remains three games ahead of Baltimore for the second wild-card spot.
The Rays tried to steal a win by pitching seven relievers, and nearly did until former Ray Stephen Vogt homered in the seventh to begin a late offensive showing by the A's.
It was the Rays' fourth straight loss and seventh in their last eight games. They scored five runs in the three games against the A's and 17 during this eight-game stretch.
“We've got to play better. I've got to play better,” Evan Longoria said. “There's nothing else we can do from an acquisition standpoint. I feel like the pitchers have done their job. We were in that game. Even in the eighth inning it felt like that game was a lot closer than it really was.”
A player has to be in an organization by midnight Aug. 31 to be eligible for the postseason roster. That deadline makes September a quiet month for teams looking for late-season playoff help.
The Rays are banking on a healthy Luke Scott and the addition of Delmon Young to add a little oomph to the offense this month. The Rays will dip into Triple-A Durham's roster only to add depth to the major league roster.
“The group you saw on the field (Sunday) is the group that has to play and win with a few maneuverings now and then,” Maddon said, “but we have to get it done with this group, and I believe we can.”
Maddon said he would be “flexible” with his lineups, but he's not going to change much. He added the Rays have had plenty of chances during this slide down the standings and have had the right batters at the plate. They just haven't come through.
Like Ben Zobrist, who was 0-for-4 Sunday and 2-for-12 in the series. He was robbed of a hit in the sixth inning that would have scored a run, but he did hit into an inning-ending double play in the third inning with runners on first and second and one out.
Longoria was also 2-for-12 in the series.
The Rays, who at one point were the best team in the league while batting with runners in scoring position, were 1-for-7 Sunday.
They went 5-for-26 in those situations during the series and stranded a combined 23 runners.
“Stuff just has to start going our way, really,” Longoria said. “You hate to say it, but we've had a little stretch of bad luck and you have to have some stuff go your way.”
Myers and Desmond Jennings showed some life over the last two games, teaming for a ninth-inning run Saturday and nearly did it again Sunday in the seventh inning of what was still a one-run game.
But Myers, who was on second base, froze on Jennings's line drive to center field and was easily thrown out at the plate for the final out of the inning.
“I should have got a better read on that,” Myers said. “It could have been the difference in a tie ballgame right there.”
“When you're not scoring a lot of runs, something like that happens.”
Referencing the offensive shortcomings was as close as Maddon would come to pointing fingers after the loss. As always, he remained positive that the bats will again get hot over these final 28 days of the season.
“Absolutely,” he said. “No question.”
Longoria said they have no other choice.
“I think we just have to hold on tight and wait for that breakout moment,” Longoria said, “wait for that time when everybody can kind of take a deep breath and finally relax again and not worry about whose in front of us (in the standings) and whose behind us and just get back to worrying about the 30 guys or whatever we have now and how we're going to figure out how to win with each other.”