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Rays' offense runs dry against D-backs

Rays' offense runs dry against D-backs

ST. PETERSBURG -- Evan Longoria had a simple explanation for the Rays' struggles Sunday afternoon and throughout their six-game homestand this week.

"We're not hitting," Longoria said. "Period."

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Tampa Bay managed just two hits Sunday and only seven in its weekend series, which came to a close with a 2-1 loss to Arizona before a crowd of 25,442 at Tropicana Field.

The Rays (44-31) went 7-for-81 (.086) in the series, drawing 26 walks, but scoring only six total runs against the D-backs. Tampa Bay went 2-4 on the homestand, with all four losses being decided by one run. All six games in the homestand, during which the Rays' offense went 30-for-176 (.170), were decided by two or fewer runs.

Arizona starting pitchers have allowed a total of five hits over the last four games, a number obviously made possible by former Tampa Bay pitcher Edwin Jackson's no-hitter on Friday night, and the Rays' seven combined hits this series brought to light the team's serious offensive struggles.

"I'm as surprised as anybody, but it's the way you do it," D-backs manager A.J. Hinch said. "If it comes out with a series win, you take it and pack your stuff and get out of town before anybody notices."

Rays right-hander Wade Davis made short work of the D-backs the first time through the lineup Sunday, and he got through the team's top hitters, thanks to a little help from his defense. But the bottom of the order gave him trouble in the fifth, and Davis' hitters couldn't do anything to capitalize on his otherwise solid outing.

Rusty Ryal, the team's No. 7 hitter, knocked a triple to center field, then eight-hole hitter Gerardo Parra followed with a two-run homer to center to put the D-backs up 2-0 in the fifth.

Controversy ensued after the inning, as center fielder B.J. Upton and Longoria got into an argument about Ryal's first career triple and concerns over a perceived lack of hustle by Upton.

The Rays cut the lead in half in the sixth inning, when Carlos Pena nailed a double to right field that scored Sean Rodriguez. But the team's recent struggles with runners in scoring position once again became all too evident, as Pena moved to third on a passed ball but was left stranded when Matt Joyce flied out to Tony Abreu.

Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said the team had plenty of hard-hit balls that simply didn't fall where they needed to -- specifically Ben Zobrist's hard groundout right at Rodrigo Lopez and Rodriguez's line drive that was caught and turned into a double play -- but he remained optimistic that the Rays' fortunes will change eventually.

Upton almost erased any memory of his questionable play in center field in the last at-bat of the game, when he ripped the ball all the way to the wall but right into the glove of center fielder Chris Young. Upton said he couldn't have hit that ball any better, and he absolutely thought it was gone as it left his bat. Had he hit it to any other part of the ballpark, it very well might have been.

"We're friends, and I saw him out between first and second base staring at me in center field for quite a while after I caught it," Young said. "It was a great hit. He did what he was supposed to do, and I thought it was gone when he swung the bat and made contact that he was the hero, but it just slowed down."

Lost beneath the frustration over the lack of hitting was one of Davis' best starts of the year. The right-hander surrendered two runs on four hits and three walks while striking out five in 7 1/3 innings of work -- his longest outing of the season and the second-longest of his career -- but he still suffered his fifth straight loss, going 0-5 in the month of June.

"We got great pitching. Wade really came back nicely. That's what you expect more of out of him, that kind of look," Maddon said. "Much better command of his fastball, much better command of all his pitches, maintained his velocity. I thought he kept getting better as the game was in progress. I was really pleased with that a lot."

With the dearth of timely hits, the recent no-hitter and the team's 12-19 record since jumping out to a 32-12 mark, it's no surprise that the mood in the Rays' clubhouse was definitely that of a club looking to put its recent struggles in the past and move on.

"I can't say it's as much frustration as it is anxiousness, because we know what level of baseball we should be playing right now, and we're definitely not at it," Rodriguez said. "Our offense obviously isn't where we want it to be. For a lot of us, it's just anxiousness, just wondering when are we going to start clicking like we can."

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

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