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Frustration building for Rays after 3rd straight loss to Orioles

ST. PETERSBURG — The only thing that has been consistent about this Rays season is its frustration.

A day after being shut out, Tampa Bay’s offense overcame five no-hit innings from Baltimore starter Grayson Rodriguez to battle back within a run Sunday. But then the bullpen gave up six quick runs, and the Orioles clinched the four-game series with a 9-2 win in front of an announced 20,386 at Tropicana Field.

“You get frustrated,” Rays first baseman Yandy Diaz said through team interpreter Manny Navarro. “You have good times and you have bad times, and it’s normal for it to be frustrating. We’re going through some bad moments right now. We’re all getting frustrated as well.”

The Rays (31-34) lost their third straight game and have dropped nine of their past 10 to American League opponents and seven straight home games against division teams. The Orioles (42-22) have a chance to sweep the series on Monday night.

With the Blue Jays’ win over the A’s Sunday, the Rays dropped into sole possession of last place in the division, the latest they have occupied the cellar since finishing the season there in 2016.

After Zack Littell held the Orioles to three runs over six innings, Garrett Cleavinger, who has not given up a run in his last five appearances, yielded two. Then Phil Maton, who gave up three runs in 1/3 of an inning on Saturday, surrendered a grand slam to Adley Rutschman, who had career-high six RBIs.

“We’re in a frustrating spot here,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “We’re not accustomed to losing games at home at the rate that we’re doing. We’ve got to do a better job and kind of get it turned around really quick. But you know, 9-2 or 2-1, they all count equally, and I think the guys are equally frustrated regardless as long as there’s a loss at the end of it.”

Tampa Bay was not only no-hit for the first five innings, Rodriguez took a perfect game into the sixth. He finished the day allowing two runs on two hits and a walk in 5⅔ innings, striking out six.

“It’s the same thing that happens anytime somebody’s carrying a game like he was through (five) innings. Everybody gets tight and starts pressing,” Rays second baseman Brandon Lowe said. “Everyone, I feel like, tries to do too much and wants to be the guy to get the job done. And, with a guy with that kind of stuff out on the mound, it’s tough to go up in those at-bats and be tight.”

Taylor Walls broke up the perfect-game bid by drawing a walk to lead off the sixth. Then, with two outs, Yandy Diaz — the only Ray to get a hit on Saturday — lined a single into shallow centerfield.

Brandon Lowe followed with the knockout blow to Rodriguez, a 10-pitch, RBI single to right that snapped a 17-inning scoreless streak for the Rays. Randy Arozarena then worked an eight-pitch at-bat for an RBI single off right-handed reliever Dillon Tate. After Josh Lowe walked, Jonny DeLuca struck out to end the inning.

The game came on the heels of Kyle Bradish and two Orioles relievers retiring 26 straight Rays Saturday between a Diaz infield single to lead off the first inning and a Diaz base hit off the second baseman’s glove with two outs in the ninth.

Offense has been a source of frustration for the Rays throughout the season.

They have the fewest home runs (49) in the major leagues, three behind the Nationals and Marlins following the game. They had the second-lowest OPS (.659) and slugging percentage (.353) in the American League, only better than the White Sox.

While they have faced back-to-back tough pitchers in Bradish and Rodriguez, Brandon Lowe said he also sees the stops and starts throughout the season as part of the issue. He and Josh Lowe had their beginning of their seasons interrupted by injuries, and the schedule has been particularly quirky of late, with the Rays off just twice over the past 13 days.

“Baseball is kind of a game where you’ve got to get going, you’ve got to get those repetitions, you’ve got to have the at-bats to kind of even some things out,” Brandon Lowe said. “When you look at it, it’s very easy to lose things and lose feels and everything like that.”

It won’t get any easier for the Rays. Monday, they face Orioles ace Corbin Burnes, and their remaining schedule is the hardest in the majors based on opponents winning percentage (.538).

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