For a second consecutive day, Rays fans had more to lament than cheer for as the Rangers took a 6-0 win over the Rays in Game 2 of the American League Division Series on Thursday afternoon at Tropicana Field with 35,535 watching.
Without actually being eliminated, a team cannot be in a worse situation than the Rays. The Rangers have a commanding 2-0 lead in the best-of-five ALDS as the location shifts to Texas for Game 3, and 4, if necessary, over the weekend. Tampa Bay has won just two games in Texas the last two seasons, going 2-7 while being outscored 69-36.
"We've been in difficult situations before, and a lot of times we've come back from that," manager Joe Maddon said. "I think up until now we've had 16 three-game winning streaks this year -- we're going to have to do this one game at a time starting on, what would that be, Saturday?"
James Shields started for the Rays and looked up to the task through two innings before he hit Matt Treanor with a 2-2 pitch to lead off the third. Treanor advanced to second on a groundout and to third on a single up the middle by Elvis Andrus that second baseman Sean Rodriguez smothered with a diving stop to prevent Treanor from scoring.
Unfortunately for the Rays, Shields threw wild to first while trying to pick off Andrus, which allowed the Rangers to take a 1-0 lead.
Ian Kinsler added to the Rangers' lead when he hit a 2-0 Shields pitch 393 feet into the left-field stands with two outs and nobody aboard in the fourth.
Then, for the second consecutive day, a controversial call had a major impact on the game.
With two on and one out in the fifth, Maddon decided to pull Shields in favor of Chad Qualls to face Michael Young.
"It was a good situation for Chad," Maddon said. "He's a ground-ball pitcher. Young has hit into a lot of double plays this year."
Qualls threw a 2-2 pitch to Young, who tried to check his swing. Replays showed Young was not successful in doing so, as first-base umpire Jerry Meals ruled Young didn't swing.
0-2 Division Series deficits
"I looked down," Young said. "I was hoping he wasn't going to ring me up, and the second I saw a safe call, I locked in for the next pitch. ... If [the first-base umpire] had rung me up, I wouldn't have said anything. I would have walked back to the dugout."
Given a reprieve, Young homered to deep center field on the next pitch to give the Rangers a 5-0 lead, and the way the Rays have been hitting, essentially put the game on ice.
Maddon found his way to the mound following the home run, not to talk to Qualls, but rather to address the umpire. The manager unleashed a tirade at home-plate umpire Jim Wolf that would have made a longshoreman blush. Midway through his message, Wolf ejected Maddon from the game.
"For those of you that have been around us the last couple months, we've had several of those moments occur," Maddon said. "So this was a pretty big moment right there."
Qualls knew that Josh Hamilton and Vladimir Guerrero would be following Young.
"I don't really want to walk the guy in that situation, so I'm going to throw him a heater, and he was just sitting fastball, and then [he] hit it over the [center-field wall]," Qualls said.
Kinsler added an RBI single with two outs in the fifth to push the lead to 6-0.
In the aftermath of Young's home run, frustrated fans at Tropicana Field began chanting, "Replay! Replay! Replay!"
Even if the call had gone Tampa Bay's way, it's doubtful anything would have come from the call since the Rays were down 2-0 at the time, and given the state of their dormant bats, a 2-0 lead seemed insurmountable.
C.J. Wilson had a lot to do with the way the Rays were swinging the bats Thursday afternoon. The Rangers' starter allowed no runs on two hits and two walks while striking out seven in 6 1/3 innings to pick up the win.
In the seventh, Tampa Bay managed to load the bases, but Jason Bartlett flied out against Darren Oliver to end the threat. Rays hitters managed just two hits on the afternoon and they struck out 10 times. Combined with Wednesday's effort against Rangers pitching, the Rays have struck out 23 times in two games.
"We've had some opportunities in the last couple of games and we haven't come through," cleanup hitter Evan Longoria said. "I think that's the bottom line -- we need a big hit. Someone needs to get a big hit and kind of break the silence.
"At this point, it is what it is. We've got to try and turn the page and do [to them] what they just did to us. Go into their place and try to win one in a row. I think that's got to be the goal right now."
While history tells the Rays that the odds of reversing their fortunes are remote -- only the 2001 Yankees lost the first two games of a Division Series at home and came back to win -- the team has a reminder in their clubhouse of what New York did since reliever Randy Choate pitched for that Yankees team.
"Nothing's impossible," Choate said. "That was so long ago. ... I was just a kid. I just remember the one thing about that team, you just never felt like you were out of it. You just have to go in there believing you can get it done. ... To be honest, the way this team plays on the road, I think we're just waiting for that one hit to just kind of getting us rolling."
Will that happen for the Rays? Catcher Kelly Shoppach is a believer that it will.
"I'd say this: We won't go quietly into the night," Shoppach said. "I guarantee you that. There's too much character in this clubhouse for that."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.