Rays shut down again in loss to Yankees

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ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays need something to get out of their latest offensive malaise.

The Wander Franco replica neck chains, a giveaway for fans that some players wore on the field Friday, didn’t do it. Saturday, in front of a sellout crowd, they’ll try their Devil Rays throwback jerseys.

Better, of course, would be a couple of big hits, and some big numbers on the scoreboard to follow.

Friday, they were shut down again by the Yankees’ pitching, and shut out in a 2-0 loss.

“We’ve got to find a way to get the offense going,” manager Kevin Cash said. “It’s not on one guy, not on two, it’s just a collective have some (good) at-bats and see if we can get some momentum from that.”

Friday’s shutout — their first at home since September 2021 — followed Thursday’s game, when the Rays (26-19) were blanked into the ninth before scoring two in a lopsided loss to the Yankees (a majors-best 33-13). And that followed a Wednesday win over the Marlins when they scored five in the first but nothing else.

Overall, the Rays have scored two runs in their last 25 innings.

“We’re streaky right now,” centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier said. “Just the nature of the game sometimes, nature of this team. We’ve had quite a few guys in this room the last few years, and this is just kind of how it goes sometimes.

“There’s times where we score 10 runs three games in a row, and there’s times like this where there wasn’t a whole lot of offense.”

The lack of hitting wasted a solid outing by Jeffrey Springs, who worked six innings in his fourth start since joining the rotation, before a mixed allegiance crowd of 19,018 at Tropicana Field.

Springs allowed five hits, but the only two that mattered came in a span of four pitches at the start of the fourth, as Gleyber Torres and Matt Carpenter hit solo homers.

Though unhappy with the results, Springs said the pitches were pretty much where he wanted them to be, at the top of the strike zone, and was pleased overall. “Anytime I can go six and give us a chance to win, I’m pretty happy with it,” he said.

Cash had a similar view. “I thought Spring threw the ball really, really well,” he said. “I thought those two pitches in particular were pretty good, well-located pitches at the top of the zone, just above. Tip your cap to Gleyber and Carpenter, very good hitters that got a pitch. Kind of seeked the pitch out, recognized it and got it.”

Springs’ mates didn’t help. After being handcuffed by Nestor Cortes Thursday, they got only two hits (and no other baserunners) in eight innings Friday against Jameson Taillon, a single by Randy Arozarena leading off the fifth (after which he was promptly caught stealing, his 11th out on the bases) and a double in the sixth by Manuel Margot, who extended his hitting streak to 14 games.

That is the longest active streak in the American League and the longest by a Ray since Austin Meadows did 16 straight in 2019. The Rays’ team record is 19, set by Jason Bartlett in 2019.

As much as the Rays want to believe they can break out of it as soon as Saturday, they will have Yankees ace Gerrit Cole standing in their way.

“I’ve always said for years now it’s just we need that one game where we have an offensive outburst and make guys feel good about themselves,” Kiermaier said. “This is just two games, but no one’s in panic mode or anything like that. We know we’ve got Gerrit Cole (Saturday), so we’re going to have another test, for sure.

“But we’ve got him before, and anyone can get hit. We just need to do whatever we need to do collectively to simplify things to get back to hitting the ball hard … just trying to get on base and score in whatever ways we’re capable of, whether it’s base-to-base or hitting some homers, whatever that may be. We’re working. I didn’t want to start the first two games off like this, but once again, they threw the ball really well. Sometimes you face a buzzsaw.”

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