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05/28/09 7:18 PM ET

Rays can't end slide against Tribe

Rainy series finale is 17th straight loss in Cleveland

CLEVELAND -- Ever the optimist, Joe Maddon can always find a silver lining.

Even Thursday's 2-1 loss to the Indians that completed a four-game sweep didn't get the Rays manager down.

"The last time we got swept in Cleveland, we went to the World Series," Maddon said. "Let's see if history repeats itself."

Maddon was referring to the fact the Rays were swept in four games in Cleveland last season prior to the All-Star break. Tampa Bay ended up winning the AL East and rolled through the playoffs before reaching the Fall Classic.

The good news for the Rays is they won't return to Cleveland until next season unless, as Maddon pointed out, the teams meet in this year's playoffs.

Tampa Bay lost its 17th straight game in Cleveland. The Rays haven't won at Progressive Field since Sept. 28, 2005.

"We definitely have to come up with a different plan," Maddon said. "Maybe the next time we come here we'll have to bring some candles and holy water."

The Rays have lost five in a row and are 23-27. It would be an understatement to say they spent four lost days here. The Rays couldn't hold a 10-0 lead Monday night, allowing seven runs in the ninth for an 11-10 loss, and had to sit through rain delays of over five hours total in the other three games. Thursday's game was delayed for two hours, 40 minutes in the bottom of the fourth.

"It was a strange series, all in all," Maddon said.

The Rays managed a small victory in the sixth inning, when an umipres' review upheld a solo homer by Willy Aybar, his third of the season. His high drive to right was ruled a home run by first-base umpire Angel Hernandez. The ball barely cleared the wall and bounced back on the field. Indians manager Eric Wedge argued the call. Crew chief Tim Welke left the field to review the play and ruled it a home run. The review lasted only 90 seconds.

"I couldn't tell," Maddon said. "It looked awkward, the way it came back. Angel was right there. He was adamant about it."

"I knew I hit it good," Aybar said through catcher Dioner Navarro, who served as a translator. "I thought it would go foul. I was hoping the umpires would call it a home run."

That's the only offense the Rays could manage against five Cleveland pitchers.

"We couldn't get anything going," Maddon said.

Jeff Niemann (4-4) gave up a run in the third on Victor Martinez's RBI groundout. He allowed a leadoff single to Jhonny Peralta in the fourth when the delay began and didn't return. In all, he allowed a run and five hits while throwing 53 pitches in three-plus innings.

"That's the way it goes sometimes," Niemann said of his shortened outing of the year. "It's tough. There's nothing you can do about that situation."

Lance Cormier, who replaced Niemann, gave up Martinez's RBI single in the fifth.

Four of Tampa Bay's last five games have been interrupted by rain. Sunday's game in Miami was delayed for 22 minutes at the start, and the Rays lost in 11 innings, 5-4.

Tuesday night's contest was delayed for 32 minutes in the fourth inning, while Wednesday night's game, in which the Rays scored five times in the first, started one hour and 55 minutes after the scheduled first pitch.

The Rays suffered more than losses on this trip. Tampa Bay also lost its starting middle infield of second baseman Akinori Iwamura and shortstop Jason Bartlett in Sunday's game. Iwamura is out for the season with a torn ACL in his left knee, while Bartlett is on the 15-day DL with a sprained left ankle.

"It's been a long last five days," said Ben Zobrist, who was 2-for-4 with a double. "It will be great to get back home."

The Rays open a three-game series against Minnesota at Tropicana Field on Friday night.

Steve Herrick is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.