Found August 14, 2013 on Fox Sports Florida:
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Leave it to right-hander Chris Archer, a cerebral and deep voice, to place the Tampa Bay Rays' six-game losing streak into unexpected perspective. "The oldest, most wise things in nature need a little weather to continue to grow -- and that's a tree," he said after the Rays' 5-4 loss to the Seattle Mariners on Tuesday night at Tropicana Field. "So as long as a team, we can weather the storm and get through this rough patch of games, we're going to be all right. We're still in the hunt. We're not too far behind Boston. We're on top the wild card. Everything in nature has to go through a little bit of weathering in order to grow." Continuing the metaphor, this slump is too brief to call it a storm. But there are darker clouds present that were absent over the past month. The Rays, baseball's hottest team before the All-Star break, a squad that went 8-2 on a road trip against American League East opponents to start the season's second half, suddenly find themselves living their worst losing streak in two years. Momentum has shifted. Tampa Bay dropped to 66-51 and has lost six consecutive games for the first time since losing its first six of the 2011 season. The reason for the latest defeat can be blamed on the same area like others during this slide: pitching. Archer allowed five runs and nine hits, which led to the Rays losing his third consecutive start after winning his previous seven from June 23-July 27. How quickly things change. The Rays have lost eight of their past 10 games after winning 19 of 22 before then. Pitching has been part of the reason for that outcome, but a lack of production should be blamed as well: Tampa Bay has averaged only 2.8 runs per game and hit .234 in this stretch. However, some within their clubhouse see silver linings where others see thunderheads. Where some see struggle, the Rays see opportunity. "Life in general, we're all confronted with the same kind of conflicts and moments on a daily basis," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "How we process them makes us different as people. I think it's the same thing with that clubhouse. Baseball teams are confronted with the same kind of problems on a yearly basis, on a nightly basis. What sets teams apart is how you process the conflict. I think we process it well." This was Maddon's message postgame: It's how you handle the moment that matters. He and Archer are correct in that perspective is needed in any streak, positive or negative, just as it was wise to proceed with caution as the Rays ripped opponents in July. Now Tampa Bay finds itself living the opposite extreme, though the Rays have a margin of error to manage given their previous success. They trail the Red Sox by four games in the AL East, and they are a game behind Oakland for the top wild card spot. Both are manageable deficits. This is August. There is time. Above all, that must be remembered. As was the case when the Rays sprinted through July, the calendar must be accounted for when analyzing their state. Of course, they cannot continue their current level of play and contend with the Red Sox or A's or Orioles or others that rise to threaten in the AL Wild Card race. They cannot expect to be mediocre and gain memorable results. Starting pitching must improve. The offensive "swarm" must return. The confidence must come back. They must be better. "This team is good at coming back the next day and going about business as usual," said Rays second baseman Ben Zobrist, who went 2 for 5 with two home runs and three RBI. "I don't doubt it's going to end soon. ... It does seem like when it rains, it pours, and it's one thing after another. But when you get on a hot streak, good things start happening, too, so you have to take the good with the bad." Those are wise words. There is balance in any season: Some good, some bad, the sour and sweet. How the Rays weather this stretch, and more importantly react to it, will reveal much about them. You can follow Andrew Astleford on Twitter @aastleford or email him at aastleford@gmail.com.
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