ANAHEIM, Calif. -- You can sum up Tampa Bay’s first West Coast swing of the season with these three words: Start and stop.
Just when it appeared the Rays were building momentum they would blow a ninth inning lead or Joe Maddon would be into his bullpen in the second inning or, as was the case Sunday, David Price would get hit hard in a 6-2 loss that appared more lopsided than the score would indicate.
“Start and stop, that sounds pretty good,” Price said. “We’ve got to get it going, so we need to figure it out sooner or later.”
Maddon said that will happen once the offense comes back to life.
The Rays had trouble generating runs during the seven games. Heck, they scored a total of seven runs during their three wins out West.
“We just have to get more offensive, that’s one of the times I want to see them more offensive,” Maddon said. “With the bats, we’ve just haven’t been that. David really had good stuff. He did. They swung the bats well. Their guy did pitch well, but part of it is where just in a little bit of an offensive slump right now.”
“Their guy” was rookie Matt Shoemaker, who allowed two hits and a run in six innings for his second big league win.
Price, who pitched a complete game at Seattle during the second game of the trip, allowed five earned runs on 11 hits.
“I don’t want him to shoulder too much responsibility,” Maddon said. “He went out there threw (119) pitches. You always feel like you’re going to win when he pitches. He did make a couple of bad pitches, but they hit them. We saw some bad pitches that we didn’t hit.”
The offense went 17 innings between runs from Friday night to Sunday. Kevin Kiermaier snapped that dry spell in the seventh inning with is first career home run.
The Rays averaged less than three runs a game on the trip.
Evan Longoria, who normally wrecks the Angels pitching staff when he returns home, was 2-for-13 with three walks during the four-game series in Anaheim and 3-for-23 with four walks during the road trip. He also comitted a fourth-inning error Sunday that allowed two runs to score and gave the Angels a 5-0 lead.
“It’s just frustrating,” Longoria said. “I don’t think we’re at the point of discouragement yet. I still believe there’s plenty of baseball to be played. Hopefully it starts to click and we figure some things out and we start to roll off a good streak of games. But it’s been pretty dismal to say the least.”
The Rays flew home Monday night in last palce, five games back of the division-leading New York Yankees.
They played the Angels series without Ben Zobrist, who dislocated his left thumb during the final day in Seattle. They played the final two games against the Angels without Ryan Hanigan, who is nursing a hamstring injury, and Desmond Jennings, who left the team to attend to a death in the family.
Still, they had Price pitching Sunday, and that gave them cause for optimism before the game.
But Price had trouble finishing innigs and the Angels made him pay. Albert Pujols homered on an 0-2 pitch with two outs in the first inning. The Angels strung together three straight two out hits in the second inning for another run. Longoria could have gotten an out at the plate in the fourth had he been able to come up with a grounder by Collin Cowgill.
“You want to be the guy to be able to make that play and turn it around and it just didn’t happen,” Longoria said. “David threw the ball well. That play right there kind of shot us in the foot.”
“We’re just not hitting, that’s the thing,” Maddon said. “You can look at it so many of ways. You’re going to make errors. You’re going to make bad pitches. Sometimes you got to get some hits, and we just haven’t been able to do that, and that’s the part that we really have to get rolling when we get back home. We have to be able to play through a bad lie, you got to get a knock once in a while if you made a mistake or made a pitch. We just haven’t been that group yet, but we’ll become that group. I think the one thing that’s been consistently missing is that moment.”