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Rays' offense sputters in loss

Rays' offense sputters in loss

ST. PETERSBURG -- In the wake of injuries and a three-game losing streak, the Rays desperately needed Wednesday's game to get back on track.

Unfortunately, the offense continued to sputter, mustering one run against starter Jarrod Washburn, and only three hits for everyone not named Willy Aybar in the Rays' 7-1 loss to the Mariners.

"Our at-bats have to improve -- we have to see more pitches and just work better at-bats," manager Joe Maddon said. "You always tend to look flat when you don't have any offense going."

The Rays are batting .229 as a team, after hitting .283 through the first four games.

"That's what we're trying to figure out right now," Carl Crawford said. "What's different, you know, we're just not hitting the ball right now."

Wednesday's news of powerful lefty Cliff Floyd, the veteran designated hitter, sent to the 15-day disabled list doesn't help the Rays' collective slump. Floyd was batting .333 with two home runs in his first 15 plate-appearances.

"Those are guys you're depending on," Crawford said. "[It] makes you have to, like, do things a different way than what you planned on."

Jonny Gomes echoed the sentiment, saying the injuries to star pitchers Scott Kazmir and Matt Garza have also taken the wind out of the Rays' sails.

"It's kind of contagious a little bit," Gomes said. "But luckily, it's only [eight games] into the year. So we have time to turn it around."

To his credit, Aybar was 3-for-4 including two doubles. But the third basemen's hits were in vain, twice coming with two outs. Aybar led the seventh inning off with a double down the left-field line, but was followed by a shallow fly ball, and a pop out to first base. Jason Bartlett's double saw Aybar get thrown out at the plate.

Starting pitcher Andy Sonnanstine tried to be the hero, but had an average performance. The righty held Seattle to a slow trickle of offense, giving up a trio of hits and two runs in the third, a solo homer to Adrian Beltre in the fifth, and allowing the Mariners to tack on another in the sixth.

"You try not to dwell on it, but I wanted to be the stopper as far as the skid we have going on right now," Sonnanstine said. "I felt like I did all right -- gave our team a good chance to win -- but, you know, just didn't go my way tonight."

The lone bright spot came from recently recalled players Justin Ruggiano and Jae Kuk Ryu. Ruggiano, who said prior to the game that he had to "prove himself," did just that. The starting right fielder laced a double into left-center field in his first at-bat. Ruggiano advanced on Bartlett's sacrifice bunt and scored off a deep fly ball from Carl Crawford that nearly eclipsed the center-field fence.

Ryu came on in relief of J.P. Howell and got Ichiro Suzuki to ground out to end the eighth, and went on to pitch a scoreless final inning.

Coming off a franchise-best Spring Training record, the Rays had high hopes for their home opening series. The club split their first two series on the road with Baltimore and New York.

"We've lost four in a row. I just didn't see this coming," Crawford said. "It's just one of those situations we didn't think we'd be in -- losing four in a row this early."

Although they are facing a 0-2 series deficit, the Rays at least have time on their side in the season's initial month.

"We try and be professional and make everything positive," said Gomes. "All it takes is someone to step up to the plate, hit the ball out. Somebody comes in, throws a couple of scoreless innings, we'll be right back on track."

Maddon is also optimistic that his young club will regain its footing and the line drives and long hits will come.

"It's more of a verbal thing -- something we've talked about all Spring Training, we've just gotten away from it a little bit," he said.

Brittany Ghiroli 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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