Seo struggles as defense falters
Debut AL start is a rocky one for new Devil Rays acquisition
WASHINGTON -- After storming into the nation's capital and taking the first game of their three-game series with the Nationals, Tampa Bay will now limp back to Florida on a two-game losing streak after dropping Sunday's game to Washington, 6-2.
In Friday night's 11-1 win over the Nationals, the Rays set a season high for runs in a game. Sunday's game saw manager Joe Maddon's squad set another season high, this one of a less desirable nature.
The Rays tied a club record for errors in an inning with three in the sixth, and they posted a season-worst four errors overall, as they finished their road trip with a disappointing 2-4 mark.
Center fielder Damon Hollins summed up the sixth simply: "It was a weird inning, man."
The miscues began in the first inning, when second baseman Jorge Cantu booted a sharply hit Daryle Ward ground ball. Ward eventually scored on a Jose Guillen double, which put the Rays in an early 3-0 hole.
Tampa Bay moseyed along mishap-free until Washington starting pitcher Ramon Ortiz came to bat in the sixth with one out. A wild pitch from Jon Switzer, errant throws from shortstop Tomas Perez and catcher Dioner Navarro, and a dropped fly ball between right fielder Russell Branyan and Hollins later, the Rays were staring at a 6-1 deficit and a series loss.
Hollins blamed the dropped fly ball on communication.
"I stepped out of the way and the ball dropped," Hollins said. "It was one of those funny plays, just a communication problem."
"That ball's caught 101 out of 100 times," the skipper said.
The fly ball didn't cost the Rays any runs, but the two other sixth-inning errors did. After not being able to force out Marlon Anderson at second on a sacrifice bunt by Ortiz, Perez's relay to first found nothing but the dugout guard rail and moved Anderson to third and Ortiz to second.
Then, after corralling a Switzer wild pitch that allowed Anderson to score, Narvarro's backhanded flip to Switzer landed up the first-base line, allowing Ortiz to score the second run of the inning.
First baseman Greg Norton, who made a diving attempt to get to Perez's throw, chalked up the errors to the law of averages.
"Everybody has those days," Norton said. "You want to try to keep them to a minimum, obviously, but it was just a rough day for us, and they just capitalized on all of our mistakes. That's what happens up here."
Maddon said that the blunders were more an aberration than the signaling of a trend.
"Honestly, that's one of the few times we've done that all year," Maddon said. "That was just a bad set of events set in motion, and we messed it up and it was our fault. We were ready to get out of the [sixth] inning, and they scored two runs on a wild pitch with Ortiz at second base. I'm sure that play's never occurred in the history of baseball. [It was] just a bad moment for us."
Maddon was asked if he felt the need to say anything in the dugout after the problems in the sixth. The skipper said that he did, but he kept the miscues in perspective.
"You say something, [but] you don't have to blow up in the dugout," Maddon said. "Any time somebody makes mistakes like that, the only time you really get upset, I think, during the course of the game is when somebody doesn't hustle -- an absolute, blatant display of not caring. When you make a physical mistake like that, I'm not one to blow up at that, but we will talk about it."
Despite the errors and the series loss, Maddon remains undaunted in his opinion that his team is putting out the effort and just isn't yet reaping the results.
"What you've seen is a microcosm of our entire year," said Maddon. "We're 10 or so games under .500, but we haven't played that poorly, by any means. The efforts been there; we've lost a lot of close games. We talk about finishing up games better. We get to that point, and then we back off. We have to just keep pounding on the door until we break through, which we're going to."
Michael Walsh is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.