Rays' road struggles continue

Rays' road struggles continue

TORONTO -- Another winless road trip now appears as a possibility on the horizon for the Devil Rays after taking a 6-1 loss to the Blue Jays on Saturday afternoon in front of a crowd of 30,698 at Rogers Centre.

The Rays have experienced two winless road trips this season and now face the reality of having to win on Sunday to avoid a third.

In addition, the Rays have been swept eight times this season -- all on the road -- including six times since the All-Star break. And perhaps most frustrating, the Rays have won just twice in 29 road games since the All-Star break.

"We've got a young team," Carl Crawford said. "There's an art to playing on the road. [The] routine's different. I guess we just have to learn how to deal with it. I'm not making excuses, you just look for why it's happening. But I guess it's just the way it is. ... I've never been on a team that's had [the kind of troubles we have on the road]. It's frustrating. Very frustrating. We need to turn it around."

The game started as a battle between two strong-willed left-handed pitchers: J.P. Howell for the Rays and Ted Lilly for the Jays. Each allowed runners to reach base, but both managed to pitch out of those tight situations.

The Jays struck first when Jason Phillips' RBI double in the second put them up, 1-0. Reed Johnson added an RBI single with two outs, but Rays right fielder Delmon Young prevented further damage when he threw a strike to catcher Dioner Navarro to nail Phillips trying to score on Johnson's single.

The Rays broke through against Lilly in the fourth, when Navarro singled home Ty Wigginton to cut the lead to 2-1.

The Rays had lost a squeaker to the Jays on Friday night, and Saturday's contest appeared it might follow the same script. Unfortunately for the Rays, their undoing came in the sixth, when the Jays sent nine batters to the plate and came away with four runs to push their lead to 6-1.

Vernon Wells walked to lead off the sixth and Troy Glaus followed with a double, prompting Rays manager Joe Maddon to bring in Shawn Camp to face Bengie Molina. Molina hit a hard shot at B.J. Upton that the Rays third baseman managed to flag down. Upton checked the runner at third then cut loose with his throw, producing a rocket that shot over the glove of the leaping Wigginton at first.

"I've got to make that play," said Upton, noting how the Rays' strategy had worked perfectly by bringing in Camp to get the ground ball, which he did.

Camp intentionally walked Lyle Overbay, then left-hander Jon Switzer was brought in to pitch to pinch-hitter Adam Lind. After falling behind 0-2, Lind singled to score one and essentially put the game away.

"We made a couple of mistakes," Maddon said. "B.J.'s throwing error was a big point. Then Switz had Lind 0-2 [and] just left a pitch over the plate. Those were big moments for me."

Given the status of the team, one must remain positive and look for bright spots from the losses and hope that the bright spots eventually put an end to future losses.

Viewing Saturday's game through rose-colored glasses, Young extended his hitting streak to 10 games with a first-inning double, then added a single and a double to push his average to .394.

In addition, aside from Upton's error, the Rays played some quality defense, which included five double plays, which tied a club record accomplished five times in the past.

And amid the positives, Maddon added about his starter: "I thought J.P. did a nice job getting us [through five innings]."

However...

"We let Lilly up a little bit," Maddon said. "We were 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position. That's not a good thing. We made mistakes, we didn't get hits and they did. And they took advantage of our mistakes."

The Rays now have lost six in a row and a loss on Sunday would tie their season-worst losing streak at seven games. Crawford shrugged his shoulders and said there's not one isolated thing he can point to in order to fix their problems on the road.

"The only thing we can do is just keep trying," Crawford said. "[We just need to] go back out there tomorrow."

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