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Rays

Rays endure another beating in Beantown

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Published:   |   Updated: March 19, 2013 at 03:20 AM
BOSTON -

It was another long day at Fenway Park made possible by another not-so-long outing from a starting pitcher and a rough day for the bullpen.

Sound familiar? It should.

The Tampa Bay Rays have followed that script during their last three games, and, not surprisingly, each has resulted in a loss.

On Saturday it was Jeremy Hellickson who struggled for five innings. The bullpen was worse, and the net result was a 13-5 thumping from the Red Sox.

"We got to get back to our normal game, pitching better as starters and then being able to match up better with the bullpen later in the game," manager Joe Maddon said. "Overall, the effort is great. All the stuff is good. We've just gotten beat up lately."

Boston hitters teed off on the Rays again, with five doubles and five home runs, including three off Hellickson.

"(Hellickson) just threw the ball into their nitro zone a little bit too often. They weren't missing it," Maddon said.

The Red Sox entered this series with two home runs in six games, and a total of 20 runs. They've scored 25 against the Rays halfway through the four-game set, including a combined 13 in the eighth inning.

The Rays, who gave up 12 runs Friday, allowed at least 12 runs in back-to-back games for the first time since July 2007.

Saturday was also the Rays' first loss while scoring at least five times since July 25, 2011, snapping a major league-best streak of 32 consecutive wins.

Hellickson was pitching for the first time since being struck Wednesday on the left side of the head by a batted ball while throwing a bullpen session in Detroit. He said his health wasn't the issue.

"I felt good. Arm felt good. Nothing wrong with the head," he said. "Just made some bad pitches."

The Rays led 4-0 before the Red Sox came to bat in the bottom of the first inning and 5-2 heading into the bottom of the third.

But Hellickson couldn't hold the lead, and like Jeff Niemann (five innings Thursday against the Tigers) and David Price (three innings Friday against the Red Sox), couldn't pitch deep enough into the game to take some pressure off the bullpen.

The Rays pen has picked up 11 innings over the last three games, which prevents Maddon from playing the matchups that normally favor his relievers.

"When you have to cover too many outs in the wrong moments with the wrong guys on the wrong hitters, then it starts to show and it causes bleeding at that point," Maddon said.

Maddon felt Hellickson relied too much on his fastball Saturday and didn't throw enough changeups, making him too predictable to a good-hitting lineup.

"I think I definitely need to use (the changeup) a little bit more," Hellickson said. "The ones I did throw weren't the changeup I usually have. I think I went away from it, and I need to mix it up a little better."

Maddon used three relievers to finish the game – Burke Badenhop, J.P. Howell and Dane De La Rosa, who was called up from Durham to give the Rays a fresh arm in the bullpen. All three allowed runs, including five from De La Rosa in the eighth.

De La Rosa was optioned back to Durham after the game and Alex Cobb was recalled.

"Part of it is we're walking too many guys (12 in the last two games), maybe trying to be too fine with our stuff. We have great stuff. We have to get ahead of hitters like we normally do and then finish them off by getting them to put the ball in play with some more weak contact," Maddon said. "We've gotten away from our basic strength and that's really to attack the strike zone and permit our defense to play, and we got to get back to that."


rmooney@tampatrib.com

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