Rays take loss to end tough road trip

Rays take rough loss to end tough trip

ANAHEIM -- A dreary Rays road trip came to an end on a pristine Southern California Wednesday in the form of a 10-5 loss to the Angels with 37,859 watching at Angel Stadium.

In defeat, the Rays were swept by the Angels while dropping to 10 games behind the American League East-leading Yankees, finishing their six-game road trip to Seattle and Anaheim with a 1-5 mark.

"We have a great team, and I think that's why it hurts us," said Carlos Pena, who hit his 30th and 31st home runs of the season in the finale. "We obviously know we're capable of doing more. We know we're doing well. Obviously, we're in a very good division, so doing well really isn't enough.

"I keep my eyes set on the fact we're a good ballclub. ... I still feel we are within striking distance. I guess what I'm saying is I brush it off. We brush it off with the best of them, like nothing ever happened. Come back and be ourselves, the possibility is there. But we definitely are capable of playing better."

In the home clubhouse, the Angels felt good about their sweep.

"They're like a mirror image of our team," Howard Kendrick said. "They steal, hit-and-run and have a lot of power on their team. So any time you can take a series like that from a good team, we'll take it." 

Gary Matthews Jr., who had just two home runs entering Wednesday's action, hit a three-run homer off Grant Balfour in the sixth to give the Angels a 5-4 lead and Kendrick added a three-run homer off Dan Wheeler to lead a five-run seventh. While Kendrick's finished off the Rays, Matthews' shot stung most.

"The play of the game was Matthews' home run," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "We had two outs and Balfour in that situation, I love it.

"That's probably the last thing you expect to happen, and he crushed it. He absolutely crushed it. That was the turning point of that game. If we could have maintained that lead, we could have used everybody differently."

Jeff Niemann started for the Rays and pitched strong into the sixth, when he allowed back-to-back singles to Kendry Morales and Mike Napoli with one out. Balfour took over, throwing Matthews fastballs on the first two pitches to make the count 1-1 before he went with a curve on his third pitch, and Matthews connected for his blast.

"Just didn't get it down in the zone," Balfour said. "I didn't think it was that bad of a pitch. ... But I definitely didn't bury it where I needed to, and he hit it out. He did his job and I didn't, and I paid for it."

Everything seemed to go against the Rays on Wednesday afternoon, which is how it felt the entire trip. What happened with two outs in the bottom of the fourth was a prime example.

Napoli lofted a high pop into shallow left field that shortstop Jason Bartlett appeared comfortably camped under. But the glare on his sunglasses told a different story. At the last instant, he pulled away and the ball fell in. Morales scored from first on the play to tie the score at 2, and the hustling Napoli chugged safely into third.

"It was in the sun there a little bit, and it came out, [left fielder Carl Crawford] thought I was camped under it, and that's why he backed out," Bartlett said. "I thought he was going to get it, so it was just a matter of not being aggressive enough and communicating. It was a tough ball. That's one of the advantages of being at the Trop."

Alas, the Rays long for home sweet home, where they are 36-18, which is in stark contrast to their 25-35 mark on the road this season.

"We just have to be a better road team the rest of the way," Maddon said. "There's just no getting around it. If we want to come back here in October, which I believe we shall, we've got to be a better road team."

For now, the Rays just seemed happy to be headed home.

"We're going home," Bartlett said. "We've got to win at home now. We've got to forget about this road trip. Just start winning ballgames. That's the key. We just have to win."

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