Scuffling Rays to use All-Star break to regroup

Scuffling Rays to use All-Star break to regroup

BOSTON -- Looking into the rearview mirror isn't a pretty sight for the Rays, so they must look forward and try to turn around their fortunes for the remainder of the season.

The understatement of the year for Rays fans: The first half did not turn out as planned.

After the Rays took a 4-0 loss on Sunday at Fenway Park to the Red Sox and old friend David Price, the reality of the numbers told the tale of a team that must kick it into high gear to even create a remote chance of being in contention in the last month of the season.

"Obviously not the way we wanted to go into the break," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "Hopefully we can erase a little bit of what's taken place over the last 25 ballgames.

"You can never start fresh until Opening Day, but somehow we have to kind of trick ourselves into thinking we're going to start fresh here in this second half and start playing some better baseball, more competitive baseball. Doing the little things that it takes to win."

The Rays finished the first half 20 games under .500 at 34-54. That's the first time they have been under .500 at the All-Star break since they finished 2007 at 66-96. That season was the Rays' last as the "Devil Rays."

Sunday's loss moved the team's losing skid to six and its road losing streak to 10 straight. The Rays have not won a road game since June 8 at Arizona. In addition, they have dropped 22 of their last 25 games. That has not happened to a Major League team since the Rangers lost 22 of 25 from June 29-July 13, 2014. That Rangers team finished with a 67-95 mark.

Now, the Rays face the daunting task of finding a way to turn it around. But how are they going to do that?

"I think first and foremost, we use the break wisely," Evan Longoria said. "Try and put the first half in the past. I feel like when we get some guys back -- I think when we get [Kevin Kiermaier] back -- I think he'll be a big boost.

"... I think that there will be some pressure taken off the rest of the guys in the lineup, and there will be a more rounded lineup. Hopefully, and that leads to the pitchers not feeling the pressure of having to go out and throw shutouts every night."

Longoria's slick play

Cash allowed that he's not upset with his team's preparation or effort. Instead, he pointed at doing the little things better, a point that every player in the clubhouse seemed to acknowledge.

"The little things is what keeps good teams in first place or within striking distance," said Jake Odorizzi, who started for the Rays on Sunday and took his fifth loss. "I think there's been times where we've faltered with the little things, and they've just kind of accumulated and snowballed and we're in the position we are. If we just get back to playing normal Rays baseball, throw it, pick it and hit it, we'll be perfectly fine."

Dancing on the edge of the volcano heading into the season's final 74 games, the Rays can't try to do too much all at once.

"Let's try and win one, turn one into two and get on a roll," Longoria said. "... I have a feeling that it will get better, and hopefully the break has a lot to do with that.

"I know for me, it's going to help me clear some of those negative thoughts of losing and some of the stuff that we've done that really hasn't been what we've preached all of Spring Training and coming into the season."

Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for since 2005. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.