Crossing home plate has become the kind of achievement the offensively challenged Tampa Bay Rays can only dream about. They were shut out for the third straight game Tuesday night, their hitting nightmare continuing in a 1-0 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals at Tropicana Field. It's the longest scoreless streak for an American League team, by games, in 10 years. Such futility is a little more common in the National League, where four teams over the past five seasons went scoreless for three straight games.
The Rays, who have lost 14 of 15 and have the worst record in the majors at 24-42, were shut out for the 10th time, tying the Padres for the league high. Rays skipper Joe Maddon has tried everything, in a figurative sense, to reverse the club's fortunes. Different lineups, different approaches, a medicine man. It's possible the man from the Seminole Nation made it rain but, again, so what? The Rays play home games in a domed stadium. And they still haven't scored in a team-record 28 innings.
They've faced great pitchers, surely: Seattle's Felix Hernandez for seven innings Sunday. Adam Wainwright of the Cardinals for seven more in the third game. Erasmo Ramirez in the middle game wasn't all that impressive for 4 2/3 innings, but Seattle's bullpen is sound.
Against the Cardinals, the Rays came close to scoring in the eighth, loading the bases with Matt Joyce at the plate, but he popped out against Trevor Rosenthal. During the streak, the Rays are 0 for 19 with runners in scoring position. Over a longer period they're — shudder — 10 for 101 with RISP.
"We're just proverbially snakebit right now," Maddon said. "We can't find some grass when we need to under those circumstances. Extremely frustrating for everybody.
"...There's not a whole lot to talk about except we left too many guys on base, 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position. That's pretty much been the tale of the tape right there."
The Kansas City Royals, in 2004, dropped three straight shutouts to the Minnesota Twins.
The Rays' next game, on Wednesday, is a big one from a historical standpoint. Only eight teams in major league history since 1914 have been shut out four times in a row — and none since the Cubs in 1992. Right-hander Michael Wacha goes for the Cardinals, and his 2.61 ERA is 10th in the NL. Wacha knows how to keep high-powered offenses off the board, much less the Rays. An extension of the scoreless streak is all too possible.
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