Rays’ struggling offense puts season in jeopardy
The AL East champion Tampa Bay Rays are on the brink of playoff
elimination and their struggling offense is a major reason.
Tampa Bay managed only one run while losing the first two games
of the division series to the Texas Rangers. The missing offense
was a familiar theme late in the regular season when the Rays were
shut out three times over the final seven games, twice by Baltimore
and once by Kansas City.
C.J. Wilson became the second Rangers left-hander to shut down
Tampa Bay in as many days when he carried a one-hitter into the
seventh inning in a 6-0 victory Thursday. Cliff Lee allowed just
one run – Ben Zobrist’s seventh-inning homer – and five hits over
seven innings in the Rangers’ 5-1 win Wednesday.
The Rays finished with just eight hits total in the two home
playoff games and now must win Saturday’s game at Texas to stay
alive in the best-of-five series. Matt Garza, who won both of his
starts against the Rangers in the regular season, will face Texas
right-hander Colby Lewis.
If the Rays’ lineup continues to struggle, it could be one short
Tampa Bay hit just .247 during the regular season, which matched
the fifth-lowest all-time among AL teams that made the playoffs.
The Rays’ 1,292 strikeouts were the most ever in either league for
a team that advanced to the postseason.
Still, Tampa Bay was optimistic entering the division series,
especially with the return of cleanup hitter Evan Longoria, who
missed the last 10 regular-season games with a strained left
quadriceps. The Rays also won their last four regular-season games
against Texas and had a 36-20 record against left-handed starters,
the second-best mark in the majors behind Florida (34-15).
Longoria singled in four at-bats in Game 1, but was hitless in
four trips Thursday. The Rays’ production against lefties now seems
like a distant memory.
Tampa Bay’s frustration boiled over several times, including
Kelly Shoppach making several waving gestures toward plate umpire
Jim Wolf while heading toward the dugout after looking at a called
third strike with two on and none out in the seventh.
Wolf, who earlier threw out Rays manager Joe Maddon for arguing
a check swing call on Texas third baseman Michael Young, took no
The Rays’ bats were basically the same, providing little action
at the plate.