Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Jake Odorizzi delivers to the Seattle Mariners during the first inning of a baseball game Monday, May 25, 2015, in St. Petersburg, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)
For the second consecutive day, the Tampa Bay Rays fell behind the opposing ball club before their first at-bat, this time in a 4-1 losing bid to the Mariners on Monday. It was also the third straight loss for AL East leading Rays, whose lead over the second place Yankees was cut to a half game in the division.

Source: FanGraphs

With the team strapped defensively, thanks to a trifecta of injuries on Sunday, manager Kevin Cash had to shuffle the lineup — something that played into the two-run first inning. Tim Beckham, who was recalled from Durham because of the Loney injury, committed a fielding error on Seth Smith’s ground ball into the shift. With a runner on first and nobody out, Brad Miller walked on four pitches. Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz followed with a pair of RBI singles for a 2-0 advantage.

Starter Jake Odorizzi labored through 24 pitches in the front frame, yet he turned it on from there and did a terrific job throughout the course of his seven inning start. Odorizzi fanned seven and walked two while scattering seven hits and two runs (one earned). Unfortunately the Rays offense has been non-existent with the lanky righty on the hill, scoring just 16 runs in the 10 starts with Odorizzi on the mound.

Moreover, the team has scored a total of six runs in Jakes five losses, despite Odorizzi being the Rays’ most consistent starter thus far:

I don’t really know if I can pinpoint (why I’ve been so consistent) or not, it’s just maturity, really. I’ve been happy with the results this year. …Just trying to stay out of habits, just throwing the same thing at the same point. I’m just kind of mixing my stuff and trying to be in the zone as best I can.

Odorizzi went on to tell Bill Chastain (MLB.com) that while he he threw too many pitches in the contest (overall), he felt that he really settled in after the fourth batter of the game:

I just thought I needed to go out there and make some better pitches. A lot of pitches in the first. … I kind of had the mind-set to get some early-count outs and pitch as many innings as I could to save the bullpen. I know we’ve been kind of using them a little — a lot — but I was just trying to go inning by inning, to be honest with you.

As the saying goes, you can’t win games if you don’t score runs. That said, Roenis Elias stifled the Rays, holding them to 0-9 with runners in scoring position. While Tampa Bay threatened in the second, fourth and fifth innings, Elias calmly made the all important big pitches and held them scoreless through five.

With two on and one out in the second inning, Kevin Kiermaier grounded into a 4-6 fielder’s choice, and Nick Franklin flew out. Then in the fourth, with runners on second and third and one out, Kiermaier went down swinging, and Franklin flew out once again. Rene Rivera led off the fifth with a long double to center, but Brandon Guyer chopped a ball to short, and Rivera couldn’t advance. Joey Butler following by grounding out to second with Rivera moving on the play, and Evan Longoria flew out to the warning track in right-center.

The Rays got on the board in the sixth when Logan Forsythe belted a 1-0 fastball into the left field seats — his fifth of the season.  However, Roenis Elias was stingy with runners in scoring position all night.  After a hustle double by Jake Elmore with one out, his second of the night, Kevin Kiermaier struck out and Nick Franklin walked.  Rene Rivera, who had doubled off the center field wall his previous at-bat, hit a comebacker on a first pitch changeup, ending the threat.

Seattle padded its lead starting in the eighth when Smith hit a hard grounder against Steve Geltz that went off Beckham’s glove. Although the play was scored a double, Smith’s hit was playable and Beckham should have made what would have been a routine out. After Miller struck out, Cano singled into right, scoring the first of two insurance runs. In the ninth, Mike Zunino homered off Brandon Gomes for the final run of the game.

Seattle’s bullpen held Tampa Bay scoreless over the final three innings. Mark Lowe worked a scoreless seventh, Carson Smith the eighth, and former Rays righty Fernando Rodney the ninth.

The New What Next

Alex Colome will look to build on his most recent (solid) start, when he ties the rubber against J.A. Happ on Tuesday. Thanks to a rain delay, Happ lasted only two innings Thursday in Baltimore, allowing four runs on four hits and two walks while striking out three. You can read about the pitching matchup in our series preview.

Rays 5/26/15 Starting Lineup

Guyer RF
Butler DH
Longoria 3B
Forsythe 1B
Beckham SS
Elmore LF
Kiermaier CF
Franklin 2B
Rivera C
Colome RHP


— Lest we forget, the Rays and Mariners traditionally play each other close. Tampa Bay is 18-16 with a +2 run differential since 2012.

— The Rays have scored three runs total in the last three games.

— As Marc Topkin wrote, Monday also was the ninth time in his (Odorizzi’s) 10 starts the Rays (24-22) scored two or fewer runs for him, as his support of 1.70 runs per start is lowest in the majors.

I can’t really think about it, to be honest with you, Odorizzi said. It’s something that’s out of my control. I can just control what I do out there and make pitches and go from there. Hopefully the runs will come. At some point, it’s got to change right? It is what it is.

— Per Topkin, there are a few external options available on the free-agent market, should the Rays look to pick someone up between now and when Loney returns. Externally, Casey McGehee, just designated for assignment by the Giants, might be the top readily available option. Other possibilities could be Travis Ishikawa, also DFA’d by the Giants; Kila Ka’aihue, released from Triple-A by the Nationals; or Garrett Jones, though that would require a trade with the Yankees.
— Cuban born outfielder Dayron Varona has been added to the Stone Crabs active roster. He signed minor league contract with the Rays on May 8th.
Per Marc Topkin, there is lots of chatter for another potential candidate for the Rays fill-in at first base: former Ray Casey Kotchman, hitting .364 with a .972 OPS for the Royals Triple-A team. Kotchman, 32, last played in the majors for the Marlins in June 2013.
— Topkin also wrote of another pre-game development, Nick Franklin took balls in left-field from 1B/OF coach Rocco Baldelli. It’s uncertain whether this should be viewed as a tacit indicator of any potential disabled list moves.
— Speaking of injuries, Steven Souza Jr. told Topkin that he’s feeling better, although he has not done anything to test his sprained wrist. Both he and Asdrubal Cabrera are available to pinch hit tonight or tomorrow, however (per Cash), they are aiming for a return to the lineup on Friday. As for Desmond Jennings, Cash said the left-fielder is “getting closer” to baseball activity; he played catch and took some swings, although there is no timetable for rehab games.

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