Manager Joe Maddon keeps calling the Rays' recent losing nothing more than a "difficult moment." Sunday, it looked more like a collapse.
On a day in which frustrations boiled over with a dugout dustup between B.J. Upton and Evan Longoria, the Tampa Bay Rays managed only two hits in a 2-1 loss to a last-place Arizona team that had no-hit them two days earlier.
The Rays dropped two of three to the Diamondbacks, who came into the series having lost 15 of 16 on the road, and finished the homestand 2-4. A team that once sat 20 games above .500 has lost eight of 11 and 19 of 31 to fall to 44-31.
Offensively, it couldn't get much worse. The Rays hit .086 (7-for-81) in the series. While Edwin Jackson had something to do with that with his no-hitter Friday, the Rays weren't facing Cy Young contenders the last two days in Ian Kennedy and Rodrigo Lopez (4-6).
Worst of all, the Rays wasted stout pitching performances Friday and Sunday by Jeff Niemann and Wade Davis (5-9), who allowed only two runs on four hits in 7 1/3 innings Sunday.
"We hit some balls hard that were very non-fortuitous," Maddon said, referencing a bullet by Ben Zobrist to Lopez in the fourth and a line drive to third by Sean Rodriguez in the eighth that would have been extra bases. "It's just not rolling our way yet, but it shall."
One of the hardest hit balls was by Upton with one on and two out in the bottom of the ninth. But the would-be game-winning homer was hit to the deepest part of Tropicana Field, the bend in left-center, and Chris Young ran it down and caught it for the final out.
It was the kind of effort center fielder Upton didn't make himself in the fifth inning when Rusty Ryal hit a drive that bounced to the same place.
Ryal legged out a triple when Upton jogged after the ball rather than sprinting to cut it off. Although the extra base was rendered moot when Gerardo Parra followed with a two-run homer, Upton's lack of hustle didn't go unnoticed.
When the Rays came off the field, third baseman Longoria had words for Upton, and Upton reacted angrily. Matt Joyce briefly stepped between the two, and with the argument escalating, Willy Aybar wrapped his arms around Upton and pulled him back.
"Yeah, it was kind of interesting, wasn't it," Maddon said.
Maddon pointed out that Upton was set up in right center and the ball was hit to left center but acknowledged that the center fielder "did not run as hard as he possibly could after that ball" and said "you still have to keep the guy from attempting to get to third, and he made it relatively easy."
About Upton's reaction, Maddon said, "That's something that needs to be discussed between me and him, and I need to discuss that with him further. But I was not displeased with how the group as a whole handled it."
Upton and Longoria spoke after the game, and both said they put the altercation behind them. Longoria said Upton is "probably my closest friend on the team," and Upton said "we'll be fine tomorrow."
But they didn't agree on how Upton played the ball and what role Joyce, who was in left field for injured Carl Crawford, should have played.
"Only B.J. knows what was going on through his head at the time," Longoria said. "I see things differently than he does. We talked about the situation, and he explained to me what he saw going on, and I'm fine with it."
And Upton's version?
"Where I was positioned, it's a long way to go," he said. "Joe always said you shouldn't assume, but I assumed the left fielder might be there and he wasn't. Maybe I should have cut it off, but it's over with now."
The Rays scored their lone run in the sixth on an RBI double by Carlos Peña after Rodriguez reached on a fielder's choice and boldly tagged and advanced to second on Longoria's fly out to right.
During the six-game homestand, the Rays hit .170 overall and .063 with runners in scoring position. Only four of the 26 Rays who walked against Arizona scored.
"It's probably the easiest excuse to give, to say we're hitting them hard at people and we can't find a hole, but we've got to find a way," Rodriguez said.