Moody blues set in
Howell roughed up as Rays endure third straight series sweep
BOSTON -- Only Joe Maddon could find positives after Thursday night's finale at Fenway Park in which the Devil Rays lost to the Red Sox, 15-4.
The Rays manager complimented the play of Delmon Young and Jorge Cantu and relief stints by Shawn Camp and Jay Witasick. But the Rays still surrendered 13 runs in the first three innings and even Maddon's rose-colored glasses fogged up a little bit after the team's worst game of the year.
"There are certain things in life that kind of kill the mood," Maddon said. "And 13 after three kind of kills the mood."
The Red Sox pounded Rays pitching early and often, accruing 21 hits en route to a sweep of the three-game series in front of a crowd of 37,044. In the process, the Rays were sent reeling toward their 11th consecutive loss, which ties this year's Rays for the third-worst losing streak in club history (June 30-July 13, 1998).
J.P. Howell started for the Rays and did not make it out of the first inning.
The left-hander has a below-average fastball, which means he has to be pinpoint perfect with his control to have a chance. On Thursday night, he nibbled, and when he put the ball across the plate, the Red Sox struck. Howell allowed six runs on six hits -- including Coco Crisp's second career grand slam -- in two-thirds of an inning before getting lifted.
"Bases loaded, I thought I could still get out of [the first]," Howell said. "Then the granny was hit and I'm like, 'Shoot, 6-0.' I've never been in that situation before. ... I was just trying way too hard to make things happen. I was trying to pitch a whole game in one inning."
Brian Stokes took over, threw one pitch, and got a fly out to end the first. But the auspicious beginning proved to be anything but a harbinger for things to come.
After the Red Sox sent 11 hitters to the plate in the first inning, eight batted in the second. Mike Lowell struck the big blow with a three-run homer to put the Sox up 9-0.
Jon Switzer pitched the third for the Rays, and the Sox sent nine to the plate while pushing across four runs to make it 13-2.
Meanwhile, Josh Beckett started for the Red Sox and though he surrendered a two-run double to Brendan Harris in the third, the All-Star hurler struck out seven of the first 13 hitters he faced. Beckett left the game after the sixth with his 12th win in tow and nine strikeouts under his belt.
Fenway Park has been a burial ground for the Rays. They have now won just twice in their last 18 games at the historic ballpark. Worse than Fenway for the Rays has been time spent away from Tropicana Field in the month of July; they have won just once in their last 22 July road games dating back to 2005.
The Rays, who were playing the Red Sox for the first time this season, have 15 more games against Boston, with six at Fenway Park.
"Can't wait, looking forward to it," Maddon said. "That's right up there with the mood killers."
But Maddon steadfastly refused to fall into the negative when talking about his team.
"It's never fun to stay out there and get your brains beat out," Maddon said. "But that's what happens in this game sometimes. We're in one of those moments that is not good and there is no way to get around that. But while we are having this difficult moment, I'm looking to see where we are improving, because this is going to go away. And we're going to be fine and we're going to turn this around."
Despite what appears to be dire times for the Rays, Maddon said he's not discouraged.
"I'm not going to grab any sharp objects," Maddon said. "I'm not going to do any of that. This too shall pass.
"There's frustration in the sense you never want to lose 11 in a row. But going into all 11, I thought our guys came ready to play every time. When you don't see that, that's when you rant and rave and get a little more upset."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.