The Tampa Bay Rays' offensive woes are starting to affect their pitchers.
Right-hander Andy Sonnanstine acknowledged after Sunday's 6-1 loss to the Kansas City Royals that he felt like he had to throw a shutout to win.
"It's tough to win with one run," Sonnanstine said. "Lately, yes, there is a little bit more pressure to do well."
In a 17-game stretch through Sunday, they've scored only 47 runs, an average of just 2.76 per game. Overall, they have a .214 average during that stretch. They've hit just .148 (19-for-128) with runners in scoring position.
Manager Joe Maddon and executive vice president Andrew Friedman will talk Monday about trade possibilities, but help may not be readily available.
If not, they may have to continue to wait for the players they have, such as Carl Crawford, Carlos Pena and B.J. Upton, to improve.
"You think you're coming out," Maddon said. "Carlos looks better, Carl's been better, (Evan Longoria)'s been hot. It's showing signs. We just couldn't piece it together today. ... We just have to clump it up a little bit more consistently. I can't say that they're awful; we're getting better."
ROYALS 6, RAYS 1: The Rays made a couple of pitching mistakes Sunday and continued to show little offense as they ended up with a disappointing split of a four-game series with the struggling Royals. RHP Andy Sonnanstine pitched better, but it wasn't enough. Sonnanstine pitched better than his line indicated, according to manager Joe Maddon, but drops to 10-6 on the season after Al Reyes could not provide any relief when he left the game in the seventh inning. The Kent State product came in with a 4.75 ERA, opponents’ OPS of .781 and 1.35 WHIP, despite being among league leaders in wins. He suffered a loss in his last outing as well, scattering three runs in seven innings during an 8-1 loss to the Oakland Athletics on July 22. He is closing in on a career high in innings pitched, so it will be interesting to see if he can remain durable down the stretch for the Rays, who remain one game ahead of the Boston Red Sox in the American League East.
INSIDE EDGE: The inability to bunch hits or deliver in key situations has been the Rays' biggest problem as they try to shake a widespread and lengthy offensive slump. During a 17-game stretch through Sunday, they've hit just .148 (19-for-128) with runners in scoring position.
— Manager Joe Maddon ripped into the team after Saturday's game for a lack of hustle, the St. Petersburg Times reported. Maddon was loud, brief and to the point, according to several players. "He was just fed up," LHP Scott Kazmir said. "It was something that really needed to be said."
—LF Carl Crawford on Saturday became the first player since Hall of Famer Arky Vaughn in 1939 to reach 80 triples before his 27th birthday. Crawford is also third among players who debuted after World War II with seven multi-triple games. Willie Mays had 10, Lance Johnson 8, George Brett 7. The popular left fielder has struggled this season, batting .267/.308/.382 with only 24 extra-base hits in 408 at bats. He currently has one of the lowest OPS (.690) totals among all left fielders in the majors.
—OF Rocco Baldelli could be an in-house solution to the Rays' quest for a right-handed hitter. Baldelli has shown considerable progress in his recovery from a rare muscle fatigue condition on rehab assignment at Double-A Montgomery, going 7-for-15 with two homers while playing five consecutive days, twice in the outfield.
—DH Cliff Floyd is scheduled to rejoin the team in Toronto on Monday. He missed the Saturday and Sunday games after returning to the Tampa Bay area for the birth of his daughter, Layla.
—RHP Troy Percival recorded saves on back-to-back nights and now has 346 overall, one behind Randy Myers for eighth on the all-time list. Percival looked shaky in the Royals series, though, allowing a run and several baserunners during each appearance over the weekend.
—RHP James Shields starts Monday in Toronto hoping some of his home success transfers to the road. Shields is 7-1, 2.16 at home; 2-5, 6.26 on the road. The 26-year-old right-hander, the eldest pitcher in the Tampa Bay starting rotation, is 9-6 with a 3.66 ERA, 171-to-37 K/W ratio and 1.11 WHIP in 21 games started overall this season.
BY THE NUMBERS: 2.76—Runs the Rays have averaged in a 17-game stretch though Sunday in which they are 6-11.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "He might have to ice his thumbs after Thursday." -- Manager Joe Maddon, on heavy Blackberry user and executive VP Andrew Friedman heading to the trade deadline.
The Vero Beach Devil Rays have struggled to score runs, sitting in the cellar of the Florida State League East division. Ryan Royster, the Sally League home run champion back in 2007, and several of his teammates have not been able to get it going at the plate. Royster is batting .260/.306/.364 with only seven runs for the Devil Rays, who have scored fewer runs than any team on the circuit. Vero Beach also finds itself last in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and OPS.
The Rays will likely look internally to address their needs, though Friedman is actively pursuing all options to improve the roster.
Ken Rosenthal lists the Rays as a potential destination for Mark Teixeira, though this option remains unlikely. Texiera is probably going to get shipped, as the Atlanta Braves are officially sellers.
Teixeira had a monster second half for the Braves after he was acquired at the deadline in the biggest deal of the season last summer. The Braves, however, were 2.5 games out in the National League East when they acquired the switch-hitting slugger. They then finished six games back, despite a monster performance from their new acquisition.
Atlanta general manager Frank Wren, a longtime right-hand man for John Schuerholz during the dynasty years, is not used to being a seller at the deadline. The Braves, though, are undoubtedly out of it—done in by too many one-run losses—and should try to make some deals with an eye on the future. Still, Wren most likely would want a deal to include Price—who is absolutely not available— or another high-level prospect, making this a long shot to happen. Six years of a potential ace for three months of the player who is the poster boy for why deadline deals often live up to the hype. Friedman will simply not part with any high-level prospects for a three-month rental, so do not expect to see the slugger wearing a Tampa Bay uniform next week.The Rays should add Jason Bay, writes Jonah Keri.
"Tampa's seeking a righty-hitting outfielder with power — exactly Bay's profile. Trading a potential ace like former no. 1 pick David Price shouldn't be an option. But the Rays have enough other strong pitching prospects to make a run at Bay. Tampa has gone from an interesting collection of young talent to a real team, one that's a legitimate pennant contender. It's time to take the next step."
This is an interesting possibility and Bay would certainly provide an upgrade offensively for a struggling offense, but I do not see this happening, either. Bay has been one of the most productive hitters in the NL this season, batting .284/.378/.529 with 22 home runs and 61 RBIs. He is making only $6 million this season as well. The Pirates' asking price, however, is reportedly considerably higher than was the case with Xavier Nady, who was shipped to the New York Yankees this weekend in exchange for four prospects.
The Rays should lower their asking price, writes Danny Knobler.
The Rays are 6-11 in their last 17 games as the frustration mounts, writes Marc Topkin.
Tyler Hissey contributed to this report. To reach him, send an email to TylerHissey@gmai.com.