The Tampa Bay Rays' lack of offense is worsening.
Following a 4-2 loss to lowly Kansas City on Thursday, the Rays have scored only 36 runs in their last 14 games and hit .210, including 13-for-99 (.131) with runners in scoring position.
Manager Joe Maddon said it is a matter of approach.
"I think everybody's trying to get it done all at once," Maddon said. "Let's see if we could bunch some hits up and get more on a line and hard on the ground as opposed to flyballs. ... More than anything, I'd just like to see us get back to our line-drive approach, and it's going to happen."
What made it even more frustrating Thursday was that they had their chances early against Royals starter Gil Meche. They had two on in the first two innings and couldn't convert, and they failed to take advantage of Meche throwing 73 pitches in the first four innings (including 31 in the first). Then the Rays allowed Meche to throw just 27 over the next three innings.
Shortstop Jason Bartlett, who returned to the lineup after missing 16 games, said it was a matter of execution.
"Just listening to what guys say when they come back (to the dugout), they're missing pitches," Bartlett said. "Granted he threw well tonight, but we're also missing a lot of pitches. It's never fun when you get a good pitch to hit and you don't hit it. I think we've just got to relax, and it's going to turn around."
The club is looking to add a bat to address this issue. The Rays have been linked to Casey Blake of the Cleveland Indians.
ROYALS 4, RAYS 2: RHP Gil Meche shut out the Rays for seven innings. Tampa Bay extended its road losing streak to seven games and hung on to first place by percentage points over idle Boston.
--RHP Matt Garza didn't strike out a batter for the first time in 45 major league appearances. He also matched a career high by walking four and admitted he felt "out of whack" on the mound. Garza, coming off a solid outing in Toronto, was not efficient with his pitches, walking four in five innings while throwing a little more than half of his pitches for strikes. He allowed four runs, all earned, raising his ERA to 3.83.
--OF Rocco Baldelli played in the outfield Wednesday at Class AA Montgomery for the first time since May 2007, and manager Joe Maddon said it's possible Baldelli could be the right-handed bat who boosts the team's offense. Baldelli has been sidelined since spring training with a rare muscle-fatigue condition.
--2B Akinori Iwamura grounded into his first double play of the season, in his 393rd at-bat. He was one of only three players qualifying for the batting race who hadn't hit into one. Colorado's Willy Taveras has gone 312 at-bats and Oakland's Jack Hannahan 283 without hitting into a DP.
--SS Jason Bartlett returned to the lineup after missing 16 games with a sprained right knee and looked good, rapping three hits and starting a dazzling double play. Bartlett, who has helped shored up the Rays’ infield defense with his excellent play at shortstop, made up for lost time in a big way, also collecting his ninth double of the season in a 4-2 loss.
As good as he has been in the field, Bartlett has struggled to get it going with the bat. While he is one of the few Tampa Bay hitters to fare well against left-handed pitching, he is batting only .264/.306/.304, sitting with one of the lowest OPS (.611) totals among qualifying hitters in the majors. Yet to hit a home run, the 28-year-old infielder, who came over along with Matt Garza in the Delmon Young deal, has produced only 10 extra-base hits so far. Regardless, his excellent range at shortstop has provided a tremendous boost to the young Tampa Bay pitching staff. The Rays, who optioned Ben Zobrist back to Durham to make room for Bartlett, will benefit from his return.
--LHP J.P. Howell pitched at Kauffman Stadium for the first time as a visitor, having been traded from the Royals to the Rays in June 2006. He has a 0.79 ERA and 14 strikeouts in 11 1/3 innings against his former team.
BY THE NUMBERS: 6 -- Saves in as many save opportunities by the Rays bullpen during the 14 games closer Troy Percival spent on the disabled list.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Definitely one of my prouder at-bats." -- Rookie 3B Evan Longoria, after hitting his first career grand slam off Toronto's Roy Halladay on Saturday
SS Jason Bartlett (sprained right knee) went on the 15-day disabled list July 3. He was activated July 24 and returned to the lineup after missing 16 games, collecting three hits.
OF/DH Rocco Baldelli (leg fatigue) opened the season on the 60-day disabled list. He played on a rehab assignment with Class A Vero Beach from June 16-29, then was held out. He started a new rehab assignment with Class AA Montgomery on July 16. Baldelli played in the outfield July 23 for the first time since May 2007.
RHP Chad Orvella (sore right shoulder) opened the season on the 15-day disabled list, and he was transferred to the 60-day DL on April 13. He had season-ending surgery May 23 to repair an impingement.
The Rays think that Rocco Baldelli and David Price could add an impact, and may rely on this pair rather than pursuing a brief rental, as mentioned in Jayson Stark's latest Rumblings and Grumblings piece.
The trade deadline is different this year for the Rays, writes Gary Shelton.
Tyler Hissey contributed to this report. You can reach him by sending an email to TylerHissey@gmail.com.