Opposite dugout: Health issues, offensive ineffectiveness lead Rays to worst record in baseball

rays-logo.jpgManager: Joe Maddon, ninth year Record: 27-43 Last 10 games: 4-6 Who to watch: 3B Evan Longoria (.265/.331/.397, 8 HR, 32 RBIs); OF Kevin Kiermaier (.333/.391/.651, 12 XBH, 4 RBIs); LHP Erik Bedard (3-4, 3.83 ERA); RHP Alex Cobb (2-4, 3.99 ERA, 1.16 WHIP) Season series vs. O's: 0-5, 8 runs scored, 22 runs allowed Pitching probables June 16: Jake Odorizzi vs. Wei-Yin Chen, 7 p.m., MASN HD June 17: Erik Bedard vs. Miguel Gonzalez, 7 p.m., MASN HD June 18: Alex Cobb vs. Kevin Gausman, 1 p.m., MASN HD Series breakdown Whether a fan of the Rays or not, it's hard to not feel for them given their misfortune this year. Pitching injuries and offensive ineffectiveness have sent Tampa Bay into a tailspin that seems to have the club on pace for its worst season since 2002, when it went 55-106 for the lowest winning percentage in team history. The Rays lost 14 of 15, including 10 in a row, from May 26 to June 10. They haven't been .500 since they were 10-10. This is the same Rays team that has put together six straight winning seasons despite a payroll that consistently ranks among the lowest in baseball. And now they have the worst record in baseball. Jeremy Hellickson, the 2011 AL Rookie of the Year, hasn't pitched this season coming off of arthroscopic elbow surgery. Matt Moore is done for 2014 after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Alex Cobb, who starts against Kevin Gausman in the upcoming series finale against Baltimore, has also been limited to eight starts because of injury. Compounding that is the fact that ace left-hander David Price has been inconsistent. As a result, the Rays rank seventh in the American League with a 4.00 team ERA, ninth with a 4.04 rotation ERA and ninth with a 3.92 bullpen ERA - uncharacteristic middle-of-the-pack numbers for a club that has routinely had one of the league's best pitching staffs in recent seasons. Because of that dip, pitching hasn't been able to cover for offensive deficiencies this year. Tampa Bay is last in the AL with 255 runs, 13th with a .244 average and 12th with 50 homers. No qualifier has an OPS higher than left fielder Matt Joyce's .739. Third baseman Evan Longoria isn't having a season up to his own standards, but still leads the team with eight homers and 32 RBIs. No other player has more than six homers. First baseman James Loney is batting .280 with 31 RBIs, however. Outfielder Wil Myers has also failed to build on his 2013 AL Rookie of the Year campaign, batting .227 with just five homers and 25 RBIs in 53 games. He's currently out with a wrist injury. But outfielder Kevin Kiermaier has provided some excitement in 21 games since joining the big club, posting a 1.042 OPS and 12 extra-base hits. All of that has conspired to drop the Rays deep into last place in the AL East, trailing first by 13 1/2 games and needing work to do just to get out of the cellar. They need to make up 4 1/2 games for the modest task of matching Boston for fourth in the division. It doesn't help that they're welcoming the Orioles to town, as the Rays have struggled against Baltimore more than any other divisional foe this season. Tampa Bay is 0-5 against the O's and 11-12 against the rest of the AL East so far this year. The middle contest features an interesting pitching matchup with former Orioles left-hander Erik Bedard, who was traded to Seattle in the deal for Adam Jones and Chris Tillman in 2008, going up against right-hander Miguel Gonzalez, who will be coming off the disabled list. Bedard has pitched to a 3.09 ERA over his last nine starts while Gonzalez has allowed three earned runs or fewer in each of his last nine starts. With the Rays having a down year, the Orioles could have an opportunity in front of them to continue closing the gap on Toronto for first in the division.
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