Having now lost 6 out of their last 7 games played, the Rays are as lost right now as they looked in tonight's game. It wasn't that their starter [Jeremy Hellickson] was getting shelled, giving up 5+ runs in a menial amount of innings pitched; the offense just didn't have anything going tonight. The prior series with the Rangers was known beforehand by all as a "tough task", which is why the Rays only managed to win one game (although the other two games were decided by a single run), thus starting the ongoing slide down the division standings, as well as the race for the Wild Card spot. After getting shutout last night 2-0, you would think that the team would try anything to regain that slugger's mentality that they showed in their series against Texas.
Unfortunately, the bats remained silent, and the struggling has yet to stop. Even the return of franchise star and all-star third baseman Evan Longoria hasn't turned out to be as glamorous as fans were initially led to believe; when his return from the lengthy disabled list stint resulted in a 13-4 record.
It's not that the bats were silent: the Rays outhit the Blue Jays 10-4 tonight, but suffered due to the fact that they left an astounding 8 men on base, as opposed to the Blue Jays 1 man left on base. Desmond Jennings scored the one-and-only run in the third when he hit a solo shot off of Jays' starter Brandon Morrow. Jennings has been displaying a relatively decent increase in the amount of pop in his bat as of late, but he still isn't anywhere close to being "a Carl Crawford clone, except with more power", as he was initially dubbed.
Starting pitching is also a problem, but that statement is not to be taken in any sort of negative light. Jeremy Hellickson only surrendered 4 hits in 6 solid innings, giving up two solo homers to Moises Sierra in the third, and a monster shot off the bat of Edwin Encarnacion (who might be hearing "PED" associated with his name after this outrageous spike in his power, especially compared to last season, where he hit 17 homers. He is on pace to hit well over 40 home runs, which obviously raises suspicion).
The inconsistency of quality outings amongst what many will argue is the second or third best starting rotation in baseball is becoming a problem. Last night's and tonight's game involved good pitching with minimal runs surrendered by both the starters and the bullpen. In the series against the Rangers, the Rays' starters seemed to almost enjoy throwing "meat" pitches, and the hottest player in baseball right now (Adrian Beltre) wasted no time in jumping on them, sending a couple over the walls. While this is an apparent problem, it is a long, arduous season, so there are bound to be highs and lows; "ebb and flow" seems to fit the bill perfectly.
After this loss and Baltimore's 6-1 victory over the Yankees, the Rays continue to shoot themselves in the foot, letting the second AL Wild Card spot drift further away from their grasp. They [Rays] are now 2.5 games behind the Orioles, and 3 games behind the A's for the two wild card spots.
Notable stats from tonight's game:
D. Jennings: 2-4, R, 2B, HR, RBI
J. Keppinger: 3-4, 2B