tampabay.com

It's not all bad news, honest; squint hard

A 6-1 loss to the Blue Jays puts the Rays on pace for 100 losses, though Joe Maddon stays positive.

By MARC TOPKIN
Published September 17, 2006


TORONTO - There are, as manager Joe Maddon insists, some good things for the Devil Rays every day.

Saturday, rookie Delmon Young got three hits to extend his hitting streak to 10 games and threw out a runner at the plate, the infield tied a team record by turning five double plays, J.P. Howell provided a decent start. And there was very good news that Edwin Jackson was not injured after frighteningly being hit on the back of the head by a line drive.

But everything else about the Rays right now is bad.

And with a good chance of getting worse and the possibility of downright horrid.

"We've just got to play better baseball," reliever Shawn Camp said. "Everybody."

Saturday's 6-1 loss to Toronto left the Rays with a 57-91 record overall, passing Kansas City for the worst in the majors.

It put them officially on pace for a 100-loss season, needing six wins in their final 14 games to avoid the scarlet numbers.

It lowered their overall road record to 19-55 and left them with a staggering 2-27 mark since July 1 that puts them in line for the worst road mark from that date on going back to 1900.

It gave them their fifth losing streak of at least six games this season and in need of a win today to avoid their third winless road trip and seventh sweep since the All-Star break.

It left some players staring into space, others shrugging and some starting to grumble aloud about what - if anything - it's going to take to get things right.

And, like so many of their other losses, it didn't necessarily have to be that way, the result of the typical wasted opportunities and a particularly sloppy sixth inning in which they made a costly error (on a throw by third baseman B.J. Upton), a bad pitch (by reliever Jon Switzer, allowing a run-scoring single to Adam Lind) and other assorted misplays.

"It came down to that one really ugly inning, and really we had a chance to get out of that one and just didn't," Maddon said. "We have to execute in those moments. We're not making the pitch. One-for-10 with runners in scoring position, we're not getting the hits.

"So that is the recurring theme that we really have to drop and move on from."

The breakdowns don't happen the same way all the time, but there always seems to be something.

"What can you do?" Camp said. "It seems like we always just play ourselves out of an inning. There's no one particular person to blame. It's just a combination of things that happen, and it's grinding."

Maddon insists the big picture is what matters most, and that losing 100 games or having the most losses in the majors won't deter him or alter his plan.

"That's just something for people to talk about," he said. "It really doesn't mean anything to me personally, and I don't want it to mean anything as a group. ... There's no way I'm going to attempt to evaluate the season in terms of number of wins versus number of losses. We're just trying to build on things right now, and I've seen a lot of good stuff and that's what I want to focus on. ...

"It's not about Kansas City, it's not about the Yankees, it's not about Boston, it's not about anybody. It's about us. We've got to compare ourselves to ourselves and get better. As long as we stay tunnel-visioned in a good way within our group, we'll get better.

"I'm not disheartened, I'm not discouraged, I'm not dis anything. It's a number. As long as we're better today than we were a month ago, I'm good. And in a lot of ways we are."

That's one way to look at it.