Davis chased early in Rays' loss

Davis chased early in Rays' loss

ST. PETERSBURG -- Matters got ugly early for Wade Davis.

And just like that, the Rays dropped the opener of their seven-game homestand by a score of 6-1 to the Red Sox on Monday night at Tropicana Field with 21,430 watching.

While the Rays took their second-most-lopsided loss of the season behind their 10-0 loss to New York on April 10, they still have the best record in the Major Leagues at 32-13 along with a 5-1/2 game lead over the idle Yankees, who reside in second place in the American League East.

Entering Monday night's start, Davis had pitched well in his previous 15 Major League starts -- save for his two outings against Boston, both of which took place at Fenway Park. In those two starts, the 24-year-old right-hander had an 0-1 record with a 10.57 ERA; his career ERA in his other 13 starts was 2.78.

David Ortiz's homer off Davis in the second suggested that his disturbing trend against the Red Sox might continue. Once the third inning rolled around, suggestion turned to validation and much of the damage Davis brought upon himself.

Davis allowed three runs in the third on three hits and three walks as the Red Sox pushed their lead to 4-0.

Davis recovered to retire the first two batters he faced in the fourth before a Jason Varitek single drove him from the game after 97 pitches. Lance Cormier entered the game and immediately surrendered a two-run homer to Youkilis, thereby finishing Davis' uncharacteristic and unflattering line for the evening. It contained five earned runs on seven hits and three walks, giving him his fourth loss of the season.

Despite the results, Rays manager Joe Maddon maintained that Davis had good stuff Monday night.

"He really had good stuff, that's the weird part," Maddon said. "Good fastball tonight, threw some good breaking balls. That one inning was just his undoing, obviously, but really he had better stuff than the score indicated."

When asked the difference between having good stuff and winning stuff, Davis put it this way: "I felt good before the game, stuff was there, felt strong, just lack of execution in a lot of parts and a lot of levels. I was getting the two strikes there on a lot of hitters, but wasn't able to put them away. That's a lot of my fault right there, not executing my pitch."

Save for a 1 1/3-inning stint by Jeff Niemann on April 8, when the big right-hander got struck by a line drive against the Orioles and had to leave the game, no Tampa Bay starter had failed to pitch at least five innings in a start this season until Davis on Monday.

Davis conceded that his performance might have been affected by trying to overcompensate for his past performances against the Red Sox, but "not too much." He then complimented the Red Sox for their ability to work quality at-bats.

"I can't let them get ahead in any counts and I can't let them have any chances to breathe," Davis said. "And that's what I did. I let them get comfortable and relaxed. And they got some pitches they could do something with and they worked a couple of walks that one inning."

Davis threw 97 pitches during his shortened stint and 40 of them were in the tumultuous third.

Working that hard in an inning "takes a toll on your body, your arm, your mind," Davis said. "Have to refocus, reset, get a couple of outs there. The whole inning I was confident, felt good about where I was and relaxed. Just wasn't making pitches there."

Equally as frustrating for the Rays was the team's inability to push home runners. They had four runners in scoring position in the first two innings, but came up empty against Red Sox starter Clay Buchholz.

"[Buchholz] made some great pitches [early] and then as he got into the game, he got so comfortable with the, whether you call it a cutter or a slider, especially to left-handed hitters, he could get back in the count, get swings and misses [with it]," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. "It was really effective. I bet you he threw 30, 35 of them tonight, but he had such a good feel for it, it was such an effective pitch."

The Red Sox right-hander held the Rays to one run -- a homer by Carlos Pena -- on six hits in six innings to move to 6-3 on the season. He has now won three straight starts with a 1.77 ERA in that span, and has won five of his last six starts.

Monday night's loss gave the Rays their first loss of the season to the Red Sox, but Maddon wasn't about to read any more into the loss than it simply being one of many losses that even the best of teams will incur occur over the course of a 162-season.

"They just got us tonight," Maddon said. "We didn't play badly. They just beat us."

Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.