Cash 'concerned' following Rays' 5th straight loss

May 25th, 2024

ST. PETERSBURG -- A week ago, flirted with perfection. The left-hander retired 22 consecutive batters to begin his previous outing, carrying his perfect-game bid into the eighth inning in Toronto.

It’s hard to imagine a more imperfect follow-up performance for Alexander and the Rays.

Tampa Bay’s losing streak reached a season-high five games with an 8-1 defeat against Kansas City on Friday night at Tropicana Field. Alexander gave up a career-high eight runs and 11 hits, done in by his own mistakes and another sloppy defensive effort, while Royals starter (and American League ERA leader) Seth Lugo throttled the scuffling Rays lineup over seven strong innings.

“It didn't help [that] I wasn't making quality pitches,” Alexander said. “I did make some good pitches; they got hit. I made some bad pitches; they got hit, too. … But they're a hot lineup right now, and they capitalize when you make mistakes.”

The Rays have been outscored 31-10 during their longest losing streak since another five-gamer last July. They’ve allowed at least five runs in all five games of this skid, and they’re batting just .167 (26-for-156) with only six total extra-base hits during that stretch, which has dropped them back to two games under .500 at 25-27.

The sustained lack of offense is particularly alarming for the Rays, who are averaging 3.96 runs per game this season while posting a .664 OPS as a team that ranks fifth-worst in the Majors. Their lone run against Lugo came in the first inning, when they loaded the bases with one out but were only able to score on Jonathan Aranda’s weakly hit fielder’s choice.

“We’re not getting it done,” manager Kevin Cash said. “Every facet of it. I mean, we're expanding on pitches that we probably can't handle. The pitches we can handle, we're not doing any damage with. We're not able to piece too much together right now. So I mean, it's kind of all-encompassing.”

Asked about his level of concern regarding their lineup, Cash replied, “I’m concerned, yeah, but I’ve been concerned for quite some time.”

The Rays’ defense is another recurring issue, and it did Alexander no favors against a Royals lineup that has scored at least eight runs in a franchise-record-tying five straight games as part of their seven-game winning streak.

After Alexander issued an uncharacteristic walk with the bases loaded in the fourth, the Rays whiffed on an opportunity to keep the game tied and get out of the inning. Hunter Renfroe hit a potential double-play grounder to third baseman Isaac Paredes, but Paredes bobbled the transfer from his glove and wound up only getting one out as the go-ahead run scored.

“I don't have the best answer. Just keep putting the work in,” Cash said. “But there's no doubt we've got to start making the plays.”

With Maikel Garcia seemingly picked off in the fifth, first baseman Yandy Díaz’s throw to Brandon Lowe went high and wide, allowing Garcia to steal second base. That proved costly when Alexander hit Salvador Perez with a two-out, two-strike fastball -- one of his two hit batters on the night, matching a career high. He gave up a three-run homer to Michael Massey on the next pitch with a sweeper that hung over the plate.

“I think when things started to slide on me a little bit, I tried to be a little bit too perfect, which resulted in some unfortunate pitches,” Alexander said. “At the end of the day, I didn't make the hitters uncomfortable in the box. They seemed pretty comfortable. And when that happens, they're gonna put good swings on good pitches and even better swings on bad pitches.”

The Rays could have prevented another run in the sixth. Renfroe hit a one-out double down the left-field line and hustled home after an aggressive send on Garrett Hampson’s single to center field. Jose Siri’s throw beat Renfroe to the plate, but catcher Alex Jackson dropped the ball. That made it a 6-1 game.

“It was a perfect throw. I dropped it. It's pretty simple,” Jackson said. “It hit me square in the mitt, and I just dropped it. Got to come up with that play.”

The Royals tacked on two more runs in the seventh. All the Rays could muster was some long, loud outs as they suffered their third loss of the season by at least seven runs and their fifth straight defeat by at least three runs, their longest such skid since dropping six in a row from June 19-25, 2016.

“It's the game. We're all gonna go through our ups and downs, and right now we're back into our down phase,” Díaz said through interpreter Manny Navarro. “But we've just got to keep on working and keep going from there.”