Mired in their worst losing streak of the season, the Tampa Bay Rays could use improvement on offense, but manager Joe Maddon knows that he needs more out of his starters.
Maddon will send rookie Chris Archer to the mound Tuesday night as the Rays try to end a five-game slide in the opener of a three-game home set against the Seattle Mariners.
Tampa Bay (66-50) capped an 0-5 road trip with Sunday's 8-2 loss to the Dodgers, recording their longest skid since starting 0-6 in 2011.
The Rays went 6 for 32 with runners in scoring position over the weekend in Los Angeles, with Evan Longoria going 2 for 12 overall in the series and rookie Wil Myers 2 for 11.
"We're going to hit those bumps, and I'm honestly not concerned about that," Maddon told the Rays' official website. "We need to get back in the moments where we have runners in scoring position."
His club has hit .235 with just three homers over the last nine games while scoring 24 runs, but a bigger issue during that stretch may be the rotation. Maddon replaced his starter before the fifth inning six times in that span, prior to which Tampa Bay got at least five innings from its starter in 32 consecutive games.
"The biggest difference is, we did not pitch well enough," Maddon said of a road swing in which his staff had a 7.36 ERA.
Jeremy Hellickson's three-inning stint Sunday marked the fourth time on the trip that a starter failed to get through the fifth.
One of those abbreviated outings was by Archer (6-4, 2.71 ERA) last Wednesday when he left after allowing one run over 1 2-3 innings due to forearm stiffness in a 9-8 defeat to Arizona. He said it doesn't appear serious.
"I am glad they are cautious with me, thinking about the future and hopefully it just dissolves and my next start I am out there at normal game speed," Archer said.
The right-hander is 5-1 with a 1.91 ERA over his last nine outings, with the Rays dropping the last two after winning the first seven. This will be his first start against Seattle.
The Rays and the Mariners (54-63) have yet to meet. Tampa Bay took six of 10 matchups last year and has won 13 of the last 18 at Tropicana Field, where the Rays have not lost a series since mid-June.
Seattle will give Erasmo Ramirez (3-0, 7.13) his first start since Aug. 3 after he was skipped because the club didn't need a fifth starter. He's since made one appearance out of the bullpen, yielding one run over 1 2-3 innings in Friday's 10-5 loss to Milwaukee.
Ramirez has posted a 5.60 ERA in winning his last three starts, getting 15 runs of support. The right-hander's only appearance against the Rays came in relief last year.
The Mariners scored 19 runs and batted .216 on a 2-4 homestand capped by Sunday's 2-0 win over Milwaukee.
Justin Smoak had just five hits in 22 at-bats in the six games, but three were home runs. He hit his 13th Sunday.
"I just saw a pitch up and made good contact and I was able to put a good swing on it," said Smoak, who is 4 for 40 without a homer in his last 11 games versus Tampa Bay.