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News » Not time to panic yet, but the way the Rays are losing is alarming


Not time to panic yet, but the way the Rays are losing is alarming


Not time to panic yet, but the way the Rays are losing is alarming
By Joe Henderson

jhenderson@tampatrib.com

ST. PETERSBURG - As the game entered the sixth inning Thursday night and Cleveland had a nine-run lead, well, it was disgusting. The Tampa Bay Rays were being embarrassed in their own house by a team with one of the worst records in Baseball, dominated by the immortal Fausto Carmona of the Indians.

You could hear booing throughout Tropicana Field, but even that seemed half-hearted. I was thinking how someone just needed to slap these guys right upside their heads. I was wondering what it would take to really jolt a sense of urgency into this team.

With that in mind, take what pleasure you will from the fact the Rays rallied and actually made a game of it - sort of - before losing 11-7. I don't imagine it would be much. Searching too hard for positives in a game like that is basically celebrating the fact the building didn't burn down.

I know there is plenty of time for the Rays to get this thing right. I know the worst thing they could do right now is panic. I also know there is something missing and it is becoming too obvious to ignore.

"We haven't been as sharp in certain areas. We've made mistakes on defense. Our hitting has been sporadic. Some starting pitching has been putting way too much of a burden on the bullpen, and then even with the bullpen some of the guys who were lock down last year haven't been quite like that this year," Rays manager Joe Maddon said.

But this is Joe Maddon, so you know what's coming next.

"I really believe as a group we're in a good place," he said. "I know I reach for the silver lining all the time, but I really believe that stuff."

Changes needed

This team seems a little too cool at times, if you get my drift.

Whatever they were last year, it wasn't cool. They were hungry, motivated, and even a little desperate at times, but they weren't cool.

It's not Maddon's style to pull a Piniella and flip over a buffet table inside the clubhouse, but watching the bulk of the 17,169 fans in the house leave early should send a message that the customer is concerned, and the customer is always right.

Maybe somebody needs to be on the first flight to Durham this morning, passing Matt Joyce or Justin Ruggiano in the air on the way. Or maybe the call goes out to Wade Davis or even David Price, although his body of work in Triple-A isn't impressive. We'll overlook that because we remember his work here last year.

Don't hold your breath, by the way, that any kind of move is imminent - because it isn't.

It's not just the 16-20 record, which is bad enough. Nor is it the fact they're in fourth place in the American League East, a division they won last year. To me, it's the way they're losing games that is the real alarm.

In this game, for instance, a two-out error by Akinori Iwamura in the fifth opened the gates to three unearned runs off James Shields. Then Joe Nelson got scorched for consecutive two-out doubles and a home run in the sixth as Cleveland built a 9-0 lead.

Yes, the Rays made it interesting by scoring six times in the sixth. It's not enough to be interesting, especially when it's the third of 10 consecutive games against last-place teams. The Rays have lost two of those games.

"We've just got to stay the course, man, and we'll be all right," Maddon said.

Greater expectations

That silver lining Maddon said he searches for is getting pretty tattered at this point. To lose like this - playing at home, with your No. 1 starter, against a team nine games under .500 going in - is just bad.

Maddon knows this. Everybody knows this.

"I can't fault anybody for questioning the record right now - that's fine," he said. "We just have to play a better brand of Baseball right now."

Expectations couldn't have been higher this year, and that's something this organization has never really dealt with before. Whatever it is, the inconsistency night after night is baffling - and this night was as inconsistent as it gets.

Maybe it's just a rough patch of road in a long season.

But maybe it isn't.

Photo credit: Tribune photo by JASON BEHNKEN

Photo: Tampa Bay second baseman Akinori Iwamura dives but can't come up with a first-inning single by Cleveland's Asdrubal Cabrera on Thursday night.

Copyright ? 2009, The Tampa Tribune and may not be republished without permission. E-mail library@tampatrib.com


Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: May 16, 2009

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