With the beginning of a new month, there was hope the Tampa Bay Rays could get June off to a better start than how they finished May. Unfortunately, it was more of the same for the last-place Rays as they fell 4-0 to the Boston Red Sox for their second consecutive 3-game series sweep.
Just a week ago, the Rays swept the Red Sox at Tropicana Field enroute to winning four games in a row. Now, the Rays find themselves 10.5 games back of the Toronto Blue Jays in the AL East and possessing the worst record in the American League (23-34).
LHP Erik Bedard was inconsistent through his 4 and 2/3 innings as he ended up in eight full counts. He was able to work out of damage in the first three innings, striking out Alex Hassan with the bases loaded in the first and stranding a runner on second in the third inning.
However, it was again the fourth inning that spelled trouble for the Rays. Three of Boston's first four hitters reached base before a sacrifice fly by Jonathan Herrera and a double by Brock Holt plated three runs. The double by Holt was made possible by a misplay in left field by Sean Rodriguez, who had a rough day fielding by the Green Monster.
The Red Sox eventually added another run in the seventh.
The Rays only had a few scoring opportunities throughout the game as Red Sox pitcher Jon Lester took advantage of the expanded strikezone this afternoon and struck out 12 batters. Once again, the Rays had a hard time even getting the ball out of the infield when they did make contact.
Arguably, the Rays best scoring opportunity came in the eighth against reliever Edward Mujica. The Boston pitcher showed a lack of control early, giving up a hit to Ben Zobrist and a walk to Desmond Jennings. With runners on 1st and 2nd and no one out, Evan Longoria had an opportunity to get the Rays on the board, but ended up grounding into a double play, followed by a strike out by Sean Rodriguez.
All in all, the Rays continue to look virtually lifeless out on the field. Aside from Friday's brush up with the Red Sox and a few nice fielding plays on Saturday, it's clear there is no energy on this ball club right now. Team owner Stu Sternberg voiced his optimism during his television interview, explaining it's only June and there's enough time for the Rays to turn this around.
And he's right. There is time to turn it around for the Rays and recent history would suggest the Rays are playing incredibly below their skill level right now. And if there's one thing fans have learned since 2008, it's to never count this team out. However, there are no viable signs this team is close to turning around its fortune.
Today's outing by Bedard marks 15 straight games in which the Rays' starting pitchers have failed to get a win. It was also the 27th time their starters finished with less than six innings of work this season. A far cry from what fans have come to expect from the Rays rotation.
Hitting has been almost nonexistent this season and the fielding has been solid at times, but overall inconsistent. The month of June provides a great opportunity for the Rays to right the ship with 18 games at Tropicana Field, but they'll need to turn it around in a hurry.
As for now, the Rays jet off to Miami for a two-game set against the Miami Marlins before another two games with the Marlins at home.
First pitch tomorrow night is at 7:10 p.m.