ST. PETERSBURG -- The fielding hasn't been good. There hasn't been a whole lot to talk about offensively. And on Thursday night, ace James Shields surrendered a career-high 14 hits. You could say the Rays are going through a bad stretch.
Thursday night's final verdict saw a 5-2 Tigers win over the Rays at Tropicana Field, with 20,532 watching. The Rays have now lost four in a row and 11 of their past 16. Only the fact that the Yankees lost to the White Sox could be construed as good news Thursday night.
"This might be the toughest time we've gone through this year," Carlos Pena said. "It definitely is ... it's the toughest stretch. But at the same time, the vibe here is, 'Guys, this is where we have to rise above it.'"
Right now "rising above it" appears to be a monumental task facing the Rays.
After collecting just six hits Thursday night, the Rays' team batting average fell to .233, and they are hitting just .222 in June, the lowest mark in the American League and the second lowest in the Major Leagues next to the Dodgers.
Meanwhile, the team committed two more errors, giving the Rays 66 errors on the season and leaving them one behind the Orioles for the most in the Majors. In addition, the Rays now have 18 multi-error games this season. Last year's Rays team made just 73 miscues the entire season and had just 11 multi-error games.
"I really think some of the gaffes on defense might be tied to [the team's offensive woes], just the attitudinal perspective where if you're swinging the bat well, you field better," manager Joe Maddon said. "Normally, we feed off our defense. We need to start feeding off our offense a little better. And I think that would pick up the spirits."
Pena conceded that the lack of hitting could indeed be affecting the fielding.
"It's crazy sometimes a team swings the bat well, it plays good defense," Pena said. "It might be correlated. But it's about coming to the park with a good mindset, and sometimes when you're going through tough times, it's difficult to have that good mindset. And next thing you know, it snowballs. And that's why we're trying to step it up and kind of in a way brush off and have fresh minds as we can possibly have, because if we carry this on our backs, it's really not going to help us."
Shields started for the Rays, and he allowed two in the third inning on an RBI single by former Ray Delmon Young and Alex Avila's RBI double.
The Tigers added a third run in the fourth inning, when Brennan Boesch scored from third on a slow roller that Quintin Berry hit to Pena. The Rays' first baseman got caught in between, initially looking to make a play at home before trying to grab the ball and tag out Berry. Pena ended up missing the ball altogether for the Rays' first error of the game.
Elliot Johnson singled home Brooks Conrad in the fifth to cut the Tigers' lead to 3-1, but Miguel Cabrera answered for the Tigers in the sixth with an RBI single. The sixth also featured the Rays' second error of the game when Shields threw wild on a pickoff attempt at first.
Conrad doubled in the seventh, and when Berry botched the play in left, Jeff Keppinger scored from first on the play to cut the lead to 4-2. Cabrera homered off Wade Davis to start the ninth, giving the Tigers a three-run cushion that stuck.
Shields took his fifth loss of the season, despite hanging tough to throw 7 2/3 innings after allowing a career-high 14 hits. He began the season 5-0 with a 3.05 ERA, but in 10 starts since then, he's 2-5 with a 4.69 ERA.
The Rays are still playing short-handed with reliever Joel Peralta serving his eight-game suspension, so Shields did manage to help conserve the bullpen with his effort. The veteran right-hander took no solace in that fact.
"Well, you can compete all you want and you can pitch deep in the game all you want, but the bottom line is, you lost the game and I've got to do a better job," Shields said.
Max Scherzer started for the Tigers and picked up his seventh win of the season after allowing two runs on four hits in six-plus innings.
"I was kind of effectively wild," Scherzer said. "I really wasn't hitting my spots the way I typically want to, but I thought I made some big 3-2 pitches throughout the game to keep from having a walk and getting an out in that situation. I know I can hit my spots better, but to have good results is a good thing."
After winning six straight against the Tigers in 2010, the Rays are 3-9 since and have scored only 28 runs in those 12 games.
"They have, they've kicked us pretty good," Maddon said. "A lot of it is based on we just don't score runs against them. We do not hit well against this team. ... We just have a hard time scoring against them. Overall, we gave up a lot of hits, but we kept the game relatively close, we just have to score more runs against Detroit."
On Thursday night, the Rays and Tigers looked like teams heading in opposite directions.
"For some reason, we always play good baseball here," Avila said. "That's why all of us don't mind coming here. Last year, our pitchers stepped up big time."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.