ST. PETERSBURG -- Before Friday night's 11-5 win over the Yankees, there was no getting around the fact the Rays were in a funk, particularly their hitters.
Despite the fact the club had lost four straight, the same mood as always seemed to prevail.
Chris Archer, who will start against the Yankees on Saturday night, noted of the Rays' start: "It's so early. Nobody's really down; we understand that 90 percent of the season is left."
Throughout the funk, Rays manager Joe Maddon continued to be the portrait of an easy rider.
"We just have to keep swinging away, and eventually we'll find a hole here or there," said Maddon, who has not sensed any frustration inside the clubhouse. "They'll come up by me for their at-bat; maybe one or two have been frustrated. But for the most part, they're really upbeat about the moment, so I kind of like that. I think if they keep hearing a consistent message from me and us, we'll be able to handle this well. ... It's all about the message and how you carry out the day."
Maddon has maintained all along that Rays hitters have been making solid contact -- a contention with some validation. According to Mark Simon of ESPN.com, the Rays entered Friday batting .589 on hard-hit balls -- the lowest mark in the Majors. The Major League average is .699.
The Rays had a .259 batting average on balls in play (Major League average was .294) -- that is, only 25.9 percent of balls they put in play had fallen for hits. That ranked as the second-lowest mark in the Major Leagues behind only Houston (.223), and no team has sustained a BABIP that low over a full season since the 1989 Orioles (.259).
"After that ball is missed by the defense, and when that ball falls and there's RBIs after your name, then all of a sudden you get kind of puffy in the chest and you feel better about yourself," said Maddon, expressing how quickly a slump can run its course. "That's just how this game plays."
The Rays have been shut out three times, which ties them with Seattle for most in the American League, and twice more they have been blanked through eight innings before scoring in the ninth.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less