ST. PETERSBURG -- Over the last five games entering Friday, the Rays' starting pitchers combined for a 9.47 ERA. The group has already had 17 starts in which it has allowed five runs or more -- one shy of its total for the entire 2012 season, when the staff's 18 were six fewer than any other American League team.
After Thursday night's game, which saw Rays starter Jeremy Hellickson allow eight runs in the sixth inning, Rays manager Joe Maddon spoke about the urgency to have the team's starters right the ship.
"We need all of our starters to do better," Maddon said. "We've been seeing way too much of our middle relief pitchers. They've been talking about, glowingly, after too many games recently for the fact that they've picked up the rest of the bullpen.
"We have to get those guys pitching less frequently. Getting the starters to go deeper into games, with leads, which is our DNA, and that's how we play at the end of the season and get to the playoffs. We can't do it this way."
Alex Cobb, who will start Saturday against the Royals, agreed with his manager.
"He's right," Cobb said. "When your bullpen is getting abused like it is right now, it's all of our mindsets to go deep into the game. For the most part, it hasn't been that consistently. We've had a couple of outings here and there where our starters have gone deep. But as a complete group, we haven't been able to put together that consistent six or seven innings by everybody every night."
Cobb noted that was "not the kind of baseball we play."
"We know as starters, we need to step up and go deeper," Cobb said. "Take some of the burden off the bullpen. Although they've been pitching excellent for us and keeping us in ballgames. But we don't to rely on that."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.