Long losing streaks and 100-loss seasons have characterized the Tampa Bay Devil Rays’ nine-year existence. The final weeks of the 2006 season may indicate how little progress they’ve made.
The Devil Rays, on pace for a third 100-loss season, look to avoid the sixth losing streak of 10 or more games in franchise history when they face the Baltimore Orioles on Wednesday in the finale of a three-game series at Oriole Park.
Tampa Bay (57-94) suffered its ninth straight loss on Tuesday, a 5-4 defeat. It’s the Devil Rays’ longest skid since losing 10 in a row from June 28-July 8, 2005.
The longest losing streak in franchise history was a 15-game slide from April 25-May 10, 2002. The Devil Rays need to go 7-4 to avoid their third 100-loss season (2001 and 2002) since joining the American League as an expansion team in 1998.
B.J. Upton had an infield RBI single and Ben Zobrist hit a run-scoring triple in the second inning Tuesday to give Tampa Bay yet another early lead. The Devil Rays have lost 56 times after taking a lead, one shy of the AL record set by the Detroit Tigers in 2002.
The Devil Rays are 3-for-19 over the past two games with runners in scoring position, and hitting .245 for the season in RBI situations.
“The runner in scoring position phenomenon is really eating us alive,” Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said.
Rookie right fielder Delmon Young went 0-for-4 and had his 12-game hitting streak snapped. The No. 1 overall pick in the 2003 draft has at least one base hit in 17 of 20 games since being called up from Triple-A Durham.
Jae Seo (1-6, 4.98 ERA) will take the mound for the Devil Rays, who have lost the right-hander’s last six starts. Seo has a 3.03 ERA in that span, however. He hasn’t won since July 29, when he gave up five runs and nine hits in 5 2-3 innings against the New York Yankees.
Seo allowed an unearned run and seven hits in six innings of a 5-4 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays on Friday. He has never faced the Orioles.
Baltimore (66-85) counters with Hayden Penn (0-3, 27.00 ERA), who has allowed at least seven runs while not lasting more than 3 2-3 innings in each of his three starts. The 22-year-old right-hander surrendered seven runs and seven hits in 3 2-3 innings of a 17-2 loss to the Detroit Tigers on Friday.
“It’s tough. I still feel like I have the stuff and I’m still very confident on the mound,” said Penn, who has never faced the Devil Rays. “I can’t change that. I still think I belong here.”
Ramon Hernandez’s RBI double highlighted a four-run fifth inning for Baltimore on Tuesday. With his 82nd RBI of the season, Hernandez matched Baltimore’s team record for RBIs by a catcher, set by Chris Hoiles in 1993.