Camden Yards continues to be a house of horrors for the Rays, and it couldn’t have come at a worse time.
Tampa Bay’s recent struggles continued when the Orioles swept the three-game set with a 5-1 win on Sunday. The Rays have now lost five consecutive games, unable to triumph during the five-game road trip in Baltimore and Atlanta.
Since the start of the 2018 season, the Rays are 10-13 at Camden Yards, while other teams are a combined 101-43. For Tampa Bay, a team eyeing a World Series this season, getting swept by the rebuilding Orioles is a tough pill to swallow -- especially under the extreme scrutiny of a 60-game season.
“We just didn’t get it done,” said Rays manager Kevin Cash. “We’re not getting it done right now. We have to find a way to come together as a group and enjoy [Monday's] off-day -- nice timing on the off-day for us -- and then get back at it and start being a better version of ourselves, because right now we’re just not looking the part.”
The Rays last season were a loose group, one that enjoyed going to the ballpark every day. That same vibe was something they pointed to when asked about their overall success. But through 10 games this season -- and especially the last five -- frustration and pressure have taken over.
“Right now you can point to any aspect of our game, but we’re not doing a good job of being ourselves, myself included,” Cash said. “We have to start getting out that positive vibe with the guys. Today there’s no doubt that it was flat, but no excuses. We need to find ways to start winning games. It’s not easy to sweep a team, whether you’re at home or on the road, and Baltimore just did that to us. It’s frustrating.”
Yonny Chirinos gave the Rays another solid start, allowing just one run over 4 2/3 innings. However, he conceded a solo homer to Renato Núñez in the third inning, putting the Rays behind early -- something they have become accustomed to this season.
Tampa Bay has trailed in nine of 10 games this season, including its last eight, and has faced multi-run deficits in seven contests. The club has scored first just twice this season -- the lowest total in the American League.
On Sunday, the Rays’ bats were held quiet by journeyman Orioles starter Tommy Milone. In the five-game road trip, the offense was able to only muster 13 runs. Brandon Lowe accounted for the lone run of the finale, launching a game-tying solo homer in the sixth inning. Though Lowe homered, the top four hitters in the Rays' lineup went a combined 2-for-16 with five strikeouts.
“I feel bad for our pitching staff,” said outfielder Hunter Renfroe. “Nobody wants to let those guys down because of how good they are.”
The approach at the plate has been an issue. Over the last five games, Rays batters feel they're pressing more at the plate and swinging at worse pitches than they did in the 4-1 start to the year.
“Probably guys trying to do a little bit too much instead of just passing it on to the next guy,” Lowe said. “I caught myself on my first two at-bats trying to hit the ball too hard and trying to hit the ball too far. Maybe we have a couple of guys that are doing that, and we need to get back to getting up there and taking good swings and passing it on to the next guy.”
Not much went right for the Rays during the road trip, but they’re hopeful that Monday’s off-day, followed by a six-game homestand against the Red Sox and Yankees, serves as a much-needed reset button.
“Obviously, it hasn’t been the best week for us, and there’s not a guy in that clubhouse that thinks we played our best ball,” Lowe said. “We understand that we haven’t been playing great, and we’re looking to fix it.”