Blunders in field, on basepaths cost Rays
Shields allows three unearned runs as club makes two errors
ARLINGTON -- Days like Saturday are going to happen during the course of a 162-game season. The only solace the Rays could take away from one of their sloppier performances was that such games have been few and far between for the most part this year.
"It was weird, a lot of weird stuff happened," first baseman Carlos Pena said. "We know that in a year, those games will happen. But it's never fun. It's never fun."
Weird went the Rangers' way in a 6-1 win over the Rays in a game that featured baserunning mistakes, poor fielding and little hitting by the Rays as 25,853 watched at Rangers Ballpark.
"It was not a good game," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "We did not play well today. We did not do many things well today. We pitched pretty good. Other than that, we did not play well in the field. On the bases, it was not one of our better games."
By losing, the Rays dropped their second consecutive game while moving to 2-3 on their current six-game road trip. Despite the loss, the Rays still have the best record in baseball at 36-20 and they maintained their two-game lead over the second-place Yankees, who took a 3-2 loss to the Blue Jays in 14 innings.
The Rangers got on the board first when third baseman Evan Longoria dropped a line drive hit by Ian Kinsler with one out in the first inning, which allowed Elvis Andrus to score. That would be the first of two errors for the Rays on Saturday afternoon. Josh Hamilton added his second home run in as many days when he connected for a two-run blast that gave the Rangers a 3-0 lead.
The Rays appeared as though they might get something going when Hank Blalock doubled with one out in the second. But the designated hitter got caught stealing with Sean Rodriguez up to bat. Rodriguez then hit his second homer of the season to cut the lead to 3-1.
Trailing, 4-1, in the fourth, Longoria started home on a passed ball after Pena swung at strike three, only the ball ricocheted back to catcher Max Ramirez. Longoria turned back toward third base and got tagged out in the ensuing rundown.
That's how it seemed to go for the Rays all afternoon. And their cause wasn't made any easier by Rangers starter Tommy Hunter, who held the Rays to one run on five hits, while pitching a complete game in his first start since being recalled from Triple-A Oklahoma City prior to Saturday's start.
"Today, I thought [Hunter] made us swing the bats, threw a lot of strikes," Pena said. "He made us swing the bats a lot. And we were hitting balls off-center. We were putting balls in play, but very weakly. And to a point where after you take a swing, you're like, 'That ball was right there,' and the next thing you know, you're topping it.
"So he must have had very good movement. Very deceptive movement because where we were swinging, the ball wasn't."
Meanwhile, despite the discouraging circumstances of the play behind him, starter James Shields hung in the game and gave the Rays seven innings. Just three of the six runs the Rangers scored were earned.
"We were a little flat in the first inning," Shields said. "I gave up a knock to [Hamilton]. And Hunter kind of took over from there. He shut us down the entire game. We just couldn't get it going today."
Shields has now lost three consecutive starts after winning five of his first six decisions this season. He has been charged with three earned runs or fewer in all but two of his 12 starts this season. Given the circumstances, Shields' effort impressed Rangers manager Ron Washington.
"He didn't give in, he continued to pitch his game," Washington said. "That's what he does. That's why he's a pretty good pitcher."
The Rays are now 1-7 at Rangers Ballpark since the start of the 2009 season and have been outscored, 64-27. During that period, Rays starters have allowed 40 earned runs in 38 1/3 innings while going 0-7 with a no-decision.
"But if we win tomorrow, it will be a 3-3 road trip and I'll take it," Maddon said. "Nobody said it was going to be easy. These guys are really good -- particularly at this ballpark. So if we can come out tomorrow and get that one and get on the plane, I'll be very happy with that."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.