Lack of energy shows in perfect-game loss
Shields drops first game as Rays fall further into hitting slump
OAKLAND -- So now it's official. The Rays are in a hitting slump.
A's left-hander Dallas Braden left no doubt, firing a perfect game against a Rays team that had hit just .209 in its previous eight games before Sunday's 4-0 loss.
"Obviously, this entire trip we really have not swung the bats like we're capable, but we will," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "I have a lot of faith in our guys. It just was a matter of the approach was not good today, and we were just down on the energy scale."
The Rays left Oakland and headed for Anaheim after losing two out of three to the A's. They lost back-to-back games and lost a series for just the second time this year.
Tampa Bay won the first four games on this nine-game road trip before losing two straight to Oakland. But during that four-game road streak, the Rays masked their hitting problems with tremendous pitching and what manager Maddon referred to as an "uncanny" ability to produce timely hits. The timely hits disappeared Saturday, and hits of any variety vanished Sunday.
"We just have to keep battling," Rays catcher Dioner Navarro said. "We lost today. Just another loss, and we've got to come back strong tomorrow."
Maddon said he had a bad feeling as the first few innings of Sunday's game against the A's unfolded. No, he didn't expect his team to be the victim of a perfect game for the second time in less than a year -- White Sox left-hander Mark Buehrle was perfect against Tampa Bay on July 23 last season. But he sensed that his team lacked its usual energy, playing its sixth road game in six days and second straight day game.
"They just outplayed us today," Maddon said. "Our energy was down. We did not have our typical energy. We just looked flat from the beginning, and it just proceeded throughout the day. Of course, their pitcher had something to do with it, but I thought a lot of it was self-inflicted."
Then again, Maddon joked, maybe it was his fault that the Rays didn't get a runner on base.
"I'm a bad omen. That's the third perfect game I've been on the wrong side of, and the fourth no-hitter," he said. "Not all four as a manager. One [perfect game], Kenny Rogers, as a bullpen coach. Eric Milton, as an interim manager, and then two perfect games as a manager. So I guess if you want to see one eventually, hang around me and at some point you'll see one."
Rays starter James Shields entered the game with a 4-0 record and a four-game winning streak against the A's. He was 4-1 with a 3.59 ERA lifetime against Oakland before Sunday.
This time, he gave up 11 hits -- 10 of them singles -- and four runs, just two earned, in six innings. He struck out six and walked one.
"They got base hits off me," Shields said. "They didn't hit the ball hard, but they got the hits they needed to get. They got hits when it counted, with runners in scoring position.
"I didn't pitch well today. They were the better team overall. You've got to tip your cap to Braden. This guy pitched an unbelievable game against us."
Shields pitched a 1-2-3 first, but that was the end of his easy ride. The A's laced three singles in the second inning and took a 1-0 lead when Landon Powell singled home Kevin Kouzmanoff.
Oakland made it 2-0 in the third, using three more singles. Kouzmanoff drove in Daric Barton with an infield single in the hole that deflected off the glove of a diving Jason Bartlett.
The A's added two unearned runs in the fourth when Shields gave up two more singles and Navarro made a throwing error.
The Rays' Ben Zobrist said there's nothing to do now but give Braden his due and try to get back on track against the Angels.
"He pitched a great game," Zobrist said. "We just have to be gracious losers today and just say, 'Hey, great game.' It's just one loss for us. We're still in a good place right now as a team. We just have to come back and keep playing our game."
Eric Gilmore is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.