ANAHEIM, Calif. — Rays manager Joe Maddon said he used outfielder San Fuld to get the final out of the eighth inning Monday as a little pick-me-up for his struggling team.
“I was looking to boost morale somehow,” Maddon said.
Fuld’s five-pitch outing produced smiles in both dugouts and ended when Angels left fielder J.B. Shuck flew out to Desmond Jennings in center field.
“I certainly thought it was a little bit funny,” said second baseman Ben Zobrist, who was also in the dugout, having been replaced by Kelly Johnson when Maddon emptied his bench during the 11-2 blowout loss.
It was the fifth straight loss for the Rays, their eighth in the past nine games.
Starting pitcher Chris Archer failed to go four innings and tied career-highs by allowed five runs on nine hits. The bullpen wasn’t much better.
But a lack of offense, especially during the early innings when it was still a game, hurt the Rays.
The Rays couldn’t take advantage of a career-high seven walks in five innings by Angels starter Garrett Richards. The Rays had just two hits off Richards — one was a first-inning home run by Zobrist — and left the bases loaded in the second and fifth innings.
“You just do a couple of things there and that sheds and entirely different light on this game and we didn’t,” Maddon said.
The same could be said for every loss during this slide, which has seen the Rays drop out of a tie for first place in the American League East with the Red Sox to holding a two-game lead over the Orioles for the final wild-card spot heading into Tuesday’s action.
The Rays hit .194 during the five straight losses. That included a .133 average with runners in scoring position (RISP).
The Rays entered Tuesday’s game having scored 19 runs during their past nine games. That’s their fewest runs during a nine-game stretch since they scored 19 times in the nine games played between Sept. 6-14, 2009.
They hit .214 during the slide, including .172 with RISP.
They entered Tuesday’s game with just three hits in their past 30 at-bats with RISP.
“There’s no doubt we had our opportunities and we just need to fight through that,” Zobrist said. “We just need that one big one (hit) or we need that one to fall when we need it and get things going in the right direction. The guys are working hard, coming back every day working in the cage, getting things right. I have no doubt we’ll turn it around, but we have to do it now because it’s September.”
Maddon said he thinks his team is pressing. Fuld said that’s only natural.
“When we’re struggling as a whole, you can’t help but kind of feel like you got to pick up the slack and do everything yourself, whether you’re Longo, or Zo or Wil, everyone,” Fuld said. “I think everyone wants to be that guy who gets the team going, and you can’t approach it like that. You have to be relaxed and just approach it like it’s going to happen.”
Fuld said the team is frustrated, but no one is panicking. At least not while the Rays still hold a playoff spot.
“There’s plenty of season left for us to change things around and be hot,” he said. “In some ways we may look back at this stretch and say, ‘Man, I’m glad we got cold at this point than at the end of September.’ Whatever you do, the goal is to always look at the short term and not think about what’s going to happen and not think about what happened. That’s easier said than done, but that’s what this team strives for.”