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Late rally falls short as Rays outmuscled in opener

Tampa Bay brings lead run to plate in ninth, but can't finish comeback

ST. PETERSBURG -- After enduring considerable hardships during a 10-game road trip, the Rays headed home feeling like they had turned the corner on the 2014 season.

Friday night's 6-3 loss to the Indians, however, reaffirmed the fact that much work remains to be done before they turn that symbolic corner and speed forward toward happier times.

The Rays took their fourth straight loss -- and sixth straight at home -- to maintain their position in the cellar of the American League East while moving to 0-4 on the current home stand.

"You look at such a wonderful conclusion to the trip a couple of days ago," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "And then you come back and lose some really mean games over the next four days."

The Indians' five-run seventh did the trick on Friday night. Michael Brantley started the scoring with a leadoff homer off Joel Peralta, and Mike Aviles finished it with a three-run homer off Brandon Gomes to put the Indians up 6-2.

Sadly for the Rays, five-run innings have not been the exception, but rather a common occurrence. Friday night made it seven times the Rays have allowed five runs in an inning this season.

"Another five-run inning caught us," Maddon said. "Way too many of those big innings have popped up against us and they've led to several of our losses."

Jake Odorizzi's performance added frustration to the loss, as the rookie right-hander seemed to pull himself together. Odorizzi made his seventh start of the season and enjoyed dramatically better results than he has experienced during his recent struggles.

The rookie right-hander allowed no runs on five hits and two walks while striking out 11 in five innings, giving him his best performance since April 4 when he held Toronto scoreless for six innings en route to his first Major League win. Unfortunately on Friday, he came away with a no-decision, but he did gain a boost of confidence.

"A huge one, honestly," Odorizzi said. "It was a rough stretch there for a while and I needed to do something. ... Tonight we executed our game plan. I think it's a big stepping stone moving forward."

Meanwhile, Indians starter Corey Kluber allowed two runs on nine hits in 6 2/3 innings, walking none and striking out nine to claim his third win of the season.

"I thought [Kluber] was really good," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "I thought he had to be really good, because Odorizzi was just really kind of carving us up. The good side of it was it took him 100 pitches to do it in five. That was kind of the saving grace there, because he was really spinning the breaking ball, and a lot of strikeouts."

Brad Boxberger took over for Odorizzi to start the sixth, and struggled from the beginning.

Boxberger, who had not allowed a run in nine innings and had needed just nine pitches to strike out three Orioles on Thursday night, allowed a leadoff homer to Asdrubal Cabrera that cut the Rays' lead to 2-1.

Boxberger then surrendered a single to Yan Gomes, and he hit Lonnie Chisenhall. Aviles' sacrifice bunt moved the runners to second and third and chased Boxberger.

Jake McGee took over and struck out Michael Bourn swinging before Nick Swisher lined out to left to end the inning and maintain the Rays' hopes of hanging on.

Three of Cleveland's runs in the five-run seventh were charged to Peralta, who took the loss. But Maddon would not throw the bullpen under the bus, given their heavy use due to the starters rarely going deep this season.

"They're getting lambasted," Maddon said. "They're lambasted right now. I'm telling you right now, I love this bullpen. I think it's going to be an outstanding bullpen. I'm not saying that to try and appease anything.

"This is a really good bullpen. They're going to be outstanding by the end of the season. Part of it is putting it together in a manner that we don't overwork them too early in the season."

David DeJesus scored the Rays' first run and drove home the other two while going 4-for-5 on the night -- including a meaningful double in an eventful ninth.

After making two quick outs against Indians closer John Axford, the Rays made it interesting with a double and a walk followed by DeJesus' second RBI double of the night. Axford was pulled after a walk to Ben Zobrist brought the go-ahead run to the plate in the form of James Loney. Hard-throwing reliever Cody Allen came in and, after a battle, got Loney to pop out to right field to end the game.

In each of their four consecutive losses, the Rays have brought the winning run to the plate in the ninth inning without coming through.

"Primarily, we have not hit," Maddon said. "We have now scored 10 runs in four games. ... It's hard, 10 points in four games. At the end of the day that's pretty much where we're at right now. We have to do a better job of pushing runs across right now."

Bill Chastain is a reporter for
Read More: Tampa Bay Rays, David DeJesus, Jake Odorizzi