ST. PETERSBURG — The Tampa Bay Rays formula for success relies on pitching and defense.
A little offense here and there, however, is needed to support those cornerstones.
And on a night in which Tampa Bay pitchers held the red-hot Oakland bats at bay, the Rays' offense came up empty in a 3-0 loss Tuesday in front of an announced crowd of 11,369 at Tropicana Field.
The game marked the 27th time this season in 46 games in which Tampa Bay (19-27) scored three or fewer runs, dropping the Rays' record in those games to 7-20. The fifth shutout loss of the season for Tampa Bay is the most times the Rays have been held off the scoreboard through 46 games since the 2004 season. Tampa Bay suffered its second shutout loss in the past three games and has scored in just one of the past 28 offensive innings.
“We just have to continue to work at it, the offense is going to come back to us,'' Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said. “These guys can hit, it's been one of those moments, a very difficult moment. I believe in these guys, it's going to happen and we are going to get hot at the right times.
“When you give up three points, you like to think you have a pretty good chance of winning those games, we just have to get our offense on track. And we will.''
Tampa Bay has now lost eight of its past nine home games while falling eight games below .500 overall for the first time since the 2007 season.
“For me, never say it can't get any worse because whenever you utter those words you are going to find it out, so you will never hear those words out of my mouth,'' Maddon said. “So I'm always looking for it to turn, looking for a turning point. Every day counts because you never really know how close you are to turning negative energy into positive. . . . I didn't really know that statistic back to 2007, and it's really no fun, but we will get it back together.''
Entering the game, the A's were on a tear, winning nine of the previous 10 games and out-scoring the opposition by a 71-18 margin.
Oakland (29-16) did all its damage in the second inning, scoring all three runs off starter Jake Odorizzi (2-4) who entered the game not allowing a run in his previous two starts. Drew Pomeranz (4-1) and three relievers combined on a four-hitter. . Sean Doolittle recorded the final three outs in the ninth to record his third save of the season.
Odorizzi dodged and weaved his way through trouble most of the night, but gave the Ray's a fighter's chance with his performance.
Though only lasting 4 2/3 innings, Odorizzi escaped a first inning, first-and-third with one-out jam inducing a short fly ball ut of Brandon Moss before striking out Yeonis Cespedes to end the inning. In the second, however, Coco Crisp lined a two-out double to the right-field gap to bring home a pair while former Tampa Bay catcher John Jaso followed up with a single to bring home to give Oakland a 3-0 lead.
The Rays had a chance to break through in the bottom of the third when Brandon Guyer singled with one out to load the bases for Desmond Jennings. But after getting ahead in the count 3-0, Jennings fell into a full count before grounding into a double play to shortstop to end the inning. Though the play was challenged by Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon, the call was upheld preventing a run from coming across.
Meanwhile, Odorizzi kept Oakland at bay despite the A's making Odorizzi work. After striking out the side in the third, Odorizzi did the same in the fourth, despite throwing 40 pitches as Oakland batters fouled off 17 pitches, while working around a pair of walks. The night would end for Odorizzi with two outs in the fifth after issuing his career high fifth walk on his career high 113th pitch of the night.
“The pitch count was up there, but I made pitches, they just fouled them off,'' Odorizzi said. “And when you make your pitch, sometimes you are rewarded and sometimes you are not. They foul it off, see more pitches, foul more pitches off, you are going to mix in a ball from time to time and when they don't chase it, everything adds up. I made pitches when I was supposed to and needed to, I just didn't get the results. They didn't put it in play, but then they didn't miss it and it was prolonging at bats that got me tonight. But they are a hot team and that's what they do, they see it well and credit to them. They did a good job of working counts.''
Cesar Ramos, who had been in the starting rotation, came on in relief to get the final out in the fifth but found immediate trouble to open the sixth inning loading the bases with nobody out on walk, base hit and a bunt base hit attempt by No. 9 hitter Eric Sogard. After a visit to the mound by Maddon, Ramos struck out Crisp looking for the first out and forced Jaso to fly to shallow left with the count full. Juan Carlos Oviedo came in to replace Ramos to face Josh Donaldson and end the inning with a four-pitch strikeout and keep the Rays' within striking distance.
But Tampa Bay's offense, which has had its share of woes throughout most of the season, did little with the momentum gained by the pitching performance in the top half of the inning by going meekly in the bottom half as Guyer grounded out to short, Jennings popped up to right and Evan Longoria ended the inning on an excuse-me check swing grounder to third. Dan Otero, who came in relief of starter Pomeranz, needed just 13 pitches to get out of the inning.
The Rays' mounted another threat in the bottom of the eighth as a base hit by pinch-hitter Kevin Kiermaier put runners on the corners with one out and Jennings up to the plate in another prime opportunity. But just as in the bottom of the third, Jennings bounced into an inning-ending double play, this time to third, to end the threat, just the second time in his career Jennings has bounced into two double plays in a game. Jennings has just four hits in his past 44 at bats (.091).
“The double play has not been our friend, we've hit into too many double plays,'' Maddon said. “Especially with Desmond, a fast runner, you don't expect that.''