Over the past week, as the hot Tampa Bay Rays suddenly cooled, there was reason for new caution. Five consecutive losses to the Arizona Diamondbacks and Los Angeles Dodgers included a little of everything: spotty starters, a struggling bullpen and an offense that failed to produce against elite pitching.
When revisiting the trip, missed chances are easy to find. By all accounts, Tampa Bay should have won two games. A 9-8 loss to the Diamondbacks last Wednesday, when the bullpen allowed two runs in the eighth inning, was an opportunity squandered.
So was a 7-6 loss to the Dodgers last Friday, the season's most painful defeat, when the bullpen allowed six runs after the seventh on a night when left-hander David Price pitched well enough to earn his seventh victory.
Despite the hiccups, Rays manager Joe Maddon, forever the optimist, remains confident. After the Friday loss, he tweeted, "We will throw this one in the wastebasket as soon as possible and come back ready to play tomorro...