Rays unable to keep up with Mets in defeat

Rays unable to keep up with Mets in defeat

Rays unable to keep up with Mets in defeat
ST. PETERSBURG -- Rays manager Joe Maddon said his club played maybe its best game of the season Sunday, but on Tuesday it played possibly its worst.

Tampa Bay was roughed up, 11-2, by the Mets in the opener of an Interleague series at Tropicana Field, ending the Rays' four-game winning streak.

The Rays got on base often with nine hits and four walks, but they were just 2-for-9 with runners in scoring position and left 10 men on base.

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"You just can't control a ball in play sometimes," Maddon said. "Sometimes guys get lucky, sometimes they don't."

On the flip side, New York couldn't be stopped when its runners got on and went 6-for-13 with runners in scoring position, with just six players left on base.

The Mets were particularly dangerous with two outs, scoring nine runs. That's been a staple to the team's offense this season, as the Mets have scored 134 of their 273 total runs with two men down.

"I don't know what the process is or why we get to two outs to have innings," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "We just go up there and bear down with guys in scoring position, so we just try to put a good at-bat together and hit the ball hard somewhere. That's what's saved us so far."

Starting pitcher Chris Young lasted 5 2/3 innings for New York, allowing just two runs -- both in the first inning -- and picked up his first win of the season in his second start.

Jordany Valdespin had his best game as a pro in his short career for the Mets, going 2-for-5 with two runs scored and four RBIs.

"I thought tonight he waited for balls he could hit and put good swings on them," Collins said.

New York went right after Tampa Bay starter Alex Cobb, especially on the basepaths in the first inning. Valdespin reached base on a fielder's choice and immediately stole second. Shortstop Elliot Johnson made a fielding error on David Wright's ground ball, allowing Valdespin to score. With Lucas Duda at the plate, Wright followed suit and also stole second and then reached third on a throwing error by catcher Jose Molina. Cobb was able to fight through the jam though, forcing Duda into a groundout before striking out Daniel Murphy.

In the bottom of the inning with one out, Carlos Pena walked and was followed by three straight singles, including one by Hideki Matsui off the right-field wall that tied the game. Will Rhymes gave Tampa Bay the advantage in the next at-bat, hitting a sacrifice fly that scored B.J. Upton from third.

The Rays probably could have scored an additional run on Matsui's hit, but hesitant baserunning cost them. Combined with the defensive errors in the inning, Maddon believes his team missed an opportunity.

"We should have been ahead 3-0 when all the dust settled early on, but it was 2-1," Maddon said. "It was just one of those nights it worked for them and didn't work for us."

Valdespin responded in the top of the fifth when he singled in Omar Quintanilla and Kirk Nieuwenhuis with two outs to give the Mets a 3-2 lead. He doubled home another run in the top of the seventh to give New York a two-run advantage.

Cobb finished a batter later when he intentionally walked Wright. He pitched 6 2/3 innings, allowing six runs -- five earned -- on seven hits and three walks. It also marked the third straight loss for the 24-year-old after winning his first two starts, though he said he felt he had good stuff.

"The fastball location was good, the changeup was good, I was mixing a few curveballs also," Cobb said. "I could tell in the bullpen everything felt good. I thought I was gonna have a good outing. That last inning, I need to bear down harder and get that final out."

New York added another run when J.P. Howell relieved Cobb. Still in the seventh inning with the bases loaded and two outs, Murphy singled home Valdespin and Wright after striking out in his first three at-bats.

It only got worse for Howell. The lefty gave up a three-run homer to Ike Davis a batter later, capping a six-run inning for the Mets and making the score 9-2.

"I just need to keep on grinding," Howell said. "It's a funny test at this point for me. Have a little faith and keep grinding, that's what it comes down to. When it's tough like this, that's all you can do."

The Mets added their final two runs in the eighth, sealing the easy victory.

Greg Zeck is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.