ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays are running out of options.
And at this rate they may run out of time to recover.
The accumulation of injuries and inconsistencies continues to add up and cost them.
Because starters Yonny Chirinos, Tyler Glasnow and Blake Snell are sidelined into September, and Brendan McKay pitched his way back to the minors, Jalen Beeks is still being used in a key role to work bulk innings as a starter or behind an opener. And because their bullpen is so heavily taxed, Beeks was still on the mound in the pivotal sixth inning Tuesday.
Plus, with two key position players rehabbing at Triple-A and two others out of action, and few of those who are healthy doing much with their bats, the offense continues to sputter and stall at crucial moments.
Another disappointing outcome Tuesday, a second straight loss to the AL West trailing Mariners, this one 7-4.
That dropped the Rays to 73-54, making for four losses (and two walkoff wins) in their last six games and out of sole control of the second AL wild card, as they are now tied but percentage points behind the 72-53 A’s. A loss by top card holding Cleveland did keep the Rays 1½ behind.
And all before another tiny Trop gathering, the announced 7,455 ranking as the third smallest of the season.
“We’re not playing good baseball right now, that’s safe to say,'' Kevin Kiermaier said. "”We’ve dug ourselves in a small little hole here as of late. We can’t dwell on that. We just have to come to the field and figure out ways to be better individually, and that’s going to translate into team success.
"So, easier said than done. But we just haven’t been hitting, haven’t been fielding it great, and pitching, the last four-five games our guys have shown they’ve been human and the opposition has had some really nice at-bats and made things tough on us.''
After opener Diego Castillo gave up a two-run homer in the first, the Rays showed some promise, battling back to take a 4-2 lead in the fourth.
Singles by Willy Adames, Kevin Kiermaier and ex-Mariner Mike Zunino, and an Austin Meadows groundout, got them two in the second. Two innings later, singles by Eric Sogard and Adames and a Kiermaier double netted one run, and another Meadows ground out another.
But Beeks, who’d gotten off to a promising start in cruising through his first three innings, faltered again. He allowed the Mariners to score two, although unearned after a Matt Duffy error, to tie in the fifth, and two more to go ahead in the sixth, with a costly leadoff walk and a home run.
The Rays had been hoping, and that was about all they could do, for better, given Beeks’ 0-3, 8.41 mark over his previous five outings, and a hefty number of walks and long counts.
“Looked like he was throwing the ball with a little bit more conviction, willing to throw it over the plate, trust his stuff,'' manager Kevin Cash said. "Then a couple plays came up, a couple baserunners got on and things started to take a toll. Maybe he lost command, fell behind and they kind of came up and got some big hits. Maybe a slight step in the right direction for Jalen. We’ll see.''
Beeks, to his credit, knew he wasn’t good enough.
“Frustrating with the walks,'' he said. "Think I had three again today. That’s really unacceptable to me. It’s just kind of been the same thing over and over again. I’m going to keep battling. I’m going to keep putting in the work. Hopefully help this team get some wins down the stretch.”
There were some promising sign as Beeks worked effectively and somewhat efficiently through his first three innings in his fifrst time through the Seattle lineup, retiring nine of 10. He threw 16, 12 and 12 pitches, and went to one of those dreaded full counts only once.
But his fourth inning, which was the Mariners’ fifth, didn’t start well, as he quickly gave back that 4-2 lead.
Duffy’s error on a somewhat routine ground ball that he said he should have had, a single and a fielder’s choice groundout put runners on the corners. A wild pitch by Beeks scored one. A double by Aaron Nola another, and it took a well-executed relay from leftfielder Tommy Pham to Adames to Zunino at the plate to keep it 4-4.
But that didn’t last, as Beeks walked Kyle Seager on five pitches to start the sixth, then gave up a homer to Tom “Babe” Murphy, his third in the two games.
Overall, he was so-so. He worked five innings, allowing four runs (two earned) on four hits and three walks, striking out four, throwing 93 pitches, 59 for strikes. Reliever Hoby Milner, just called up from Triple-A, gave up the other run in the seventh.
And there wasn’t much help from the offense.
After scoring the two runs in the fourth, the Rays managed only one more hit. They went down nine straight in one stretch. They saw only eight pitches in the fifth. Their top five hitters were a combined 1-for-19. They were 3-for-12 with runners in scoring position.
"We just don’t have a whole lot of guys locked in right now, to be honest,'' Kiermaier said. "Most of us play better when we have that confidence going, kind of that swagger throughout the whole lineup. We feed off that and right now we just don’t have a whole lot of momentum going for us. It’s tough.''
Also, Duffy said, "When teams get into ruts offensively it kind of seems like a lot of guys try to do a little more than really needed. I think consistent quality at-bats is what makes us good as an offense when we’re clicking. It’s a pretty simple thing to say, it’s also probably the most difficult thing to do offensively is control your mind. And control the fact that you know runs have been at a premium for us lately, guys get on base, you want to do damage. So I think that’s natural as well.''
And – Seattle really is a truly great city – these are the Mariners, who came in with the reverse of the Rays record at 53-73, and have little to play for. Nor, theoretically, did the majors-worst Tigers, and the Rays needed two walkoff wins to avoid being swept by them.
"We know we’re playing teams, a Detroit team and a Seattle team, their record it’s probably not where they want it to be,'' Kiermaier said. "But it’s one of those things where we need to handle these guys a little bit better.''
You’d think, as these Rays have plenty to play for, most preciously the first trip back to the playoffs since 2013, when they were under different management. But with a 10-6 record thus far in a stretch of 21 games against teams with losing records, they sure haven’t looked like it enough.
For all kinds of reasons.
Contact Marc Topkin at email@example.com. Follow @TBTimes_Rays.