Willy Aybar at shortstop, no Carl Crawford in left, and left-handed hitters Gabe Gross and Eric Hinske in the lineup against ace Indians left-hander Cliff Lee. And by the end of the game, reserve catcher Shawn Riggans found a place in left field.
Nagging injuries not bad enough to force roster moves -- but bad enough to cause missed games -- dictated the makeshift lineup with everyday shortstop Jason Bartlett's right index finger still mending and Crawford's left hamstring aching.
While the impact of Crawford and Bartlett not being in the lineup did surface in the second inning when Aybar couldn't handle Jhonny Perralta's shot off his glove -- Bartlett probably makes the play -- and the RBI double to Kelly Shoppach likely would have been played differently by Crawford in deference to Hinske, who started in left, their absences weren't the reason the Rays took a 5-2 loss Monday night. Instead, credit should go to Lee, who held the Rays to two runs on five hits in seven innings worked.
"He's good, he pitched well and he beat us tonight," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "We weren't as sharp on the mound tonight as normal, but our pitchers gave us a chance to win."
Maddon cited fastball command for Lee's success.
"He throws his fastball where he wants to," Maddon said. "I see a guy pitching with a lot of confidence, he throws his fastball first and he throws it down. You've got to like that. ... He's not very complex, he's very simple. He's got a simple game plan and he executes it well."
Lee's win gave him 15 for the season, moving him into a tie with Arizona's Brandon Webb for the Major League lead in wins, while his record against the Rays moved to 6-2 with a 2.32 ERA in 10 career starts.
"He hits his spots," said Carlos Pena, who went 0-for-3 against Lee. "He has a very sneaky fastball. His fastball sneaks up on you quick and he was throwing it right across his body right across the plate. [It was] on the outside corner for lefties; even right-handers were having a bit of a tough time with that ball cutting into their hands. So he did his job."
A crowd of 17,049 at Tropicana Field watched the Indians southpaw do what he does best while snapping a five-game Rays winning streak. In addition, the Rays took their first loss at Tropicana Field since July 22.
The Indians, who swept the Rays in four games at Cleveland from July 10-13, are now 5-0 against the Rays this season and have won 12 of their last 13 meetings against the Rays and 19 of their last 21.
Matt Garza started for the Rays, allowing four runs on seven hits in five innings to take his seventh loss of the season. A solo home run to Asdrubal Cabrera and a two-run homer to David Dellucci proved to be the telling blows against Garza.
"It's tough to lose the way we did," Garza said. "Two big pitches cost me three runs. ... They took advantage of my mistakes and made me pay for it."
Garza cited location as his primary problem.
"I fell behind a lot of hitters tonight and put them in a lot of offensive counts," Garza said. "When you do that to big league hitters, they make you pay for it. And they did."
Maddon concurred with Garza's assessment.
"Fastball command with him just wasn't as good tonight," Maddon said. "You can just picture in his mind when he's been really good, particularly here, [he throws] a lot of first-pitch fastball strikes down in the zone. It just wasn't happening."
Garza threw just seven of 22 first-pitch strikes Monday night.
"A changeup to Dellucci, that went far, and a two-strike homer to Cabrera, which is really uncharacteristic [of Garza]," Maddon said. "Those are just tell-tale signs that he just wasn't right. That shouldn't happen. When he's on, he's not going to leave that changeup up there to Dellucci and he's not going to permit Cabrera to hit a two-strike homer against him -- and pull it on top of that."
Dellucci said, "For some reason, we play really well" against the Rays.
"And when you have Cliff Lee on the mound, you pretty much follow his lead," Dellucci said. "He threw a great game once again and we put runs up there for him."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less