If anyone has seen the Rays offense wandering around downtown St. Pete please alert the authorities immediately as it has all but disappeared from Tropicana Field. Sure, the Rays managed to get three men across the plate Wednesday, but for the majority of the contest the Rays offense looked meager and at times downright non-existent.
The greatness that is Edinson Volquez no-hit the boys in blue for four innings before Casey Kotchman continued his rock n' roll world tour with a double into the right field corner, ending the threat of endless unbearable Sportscenter lead stories that Rays fans have become all too familiar with in recent years.
The lone threat for the Rays came in the sixth inning as Johnny Damon blooped a single into right field, a hit that would tie him with Red Sox great Ted Williams on the all time hit list. Early team MVP Ben Zobrist followed Damon's milestone with a walk and Evan Longoria belted a line drive into the right field corner for a two RBI double. Unfortunately, and in somewhat typical Rays bad luck fashion Matt Joyce would smash a line drive right at Reds second-baseman Brandon Phillips who would double up a leaning Longoria to end the inning.
The only other offense the Rays would muster was a solo shot by team home-run leader BJ Upton to deep left center in the seventh, as the hometown team went down relatively quietly in the last two frames.
Rays right-hander James Shields was unable to finish the game, leaving after 7 innings and snapping his streak of three straight complete games. Shields pitched well, striking out 10 Reds batters and allowing the majority of the damage on one hanging curve ball in the fourth inning that Ryan Hannigan deposited into the left field bleachers for three runs. Two straight walks to lead off the top of the seventh would come back to bite Shields even though he managed to get outs from the next two batters as Fred Lewis would poke a line drive into left and drive in the winning run with an RBI single. Both JP Howell and Juan Cruz worked scoreless frames to finish off the game.
Despite giving up four runs in the contest, Shields deserved a better fate as the offense at home continues to struggle and was unable to pick up it's ace pitcher. In three games with the Reds since returning to Houston, the Rays have managed only seven runs, half what they scored in Sundays outburst alone. I don't know what it is about the Trop that is suppressing offense so much this season but lets hope Joe Maddon can figure it out quick as Tampa Bay is now a game under .500 at home.
Next up is a much needed day off for Tampa Bay, the first one at home since early May, before a weekend series with the St. Louis Cardinals.