PHILADELPHIA — Confident and poised during an improbable run to the World Series, the Tampa Bay Rays are finally showing signs of being a young, inexperienced team overwhelmed by the moment.
Evan Longoria and Carlos Pena are still hitless, normally sure-handed fielders are making mistakes, and the AL champions are running out of time to fix their offensive woes and ragged defense.
Their 10-2 loss to Philadelphia on Sunday night dropped the Rays into a 3-1 hole that would be difficult to escape even if Longoria and Pena were producing and the Phillies weren't taking advantage of virtually every miscue in the field.
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It started with a shaky performance in Game 3, in which the Rays overcame a three-run deficit only to lose 5-4 when a hit batsmen, a wild pitch and a throwing error by Dioner Navarro put them a tight spot in the ninth inning.
The Rays committed two more errors Sunday night, giving them 11 in their last eight postseason games. That's confounding when you consider they didn't commit a single error in their first seven playoffs games.
And they've especially been out of synch since arriving in Philadelphia after splitting the first two games of the series at Tropicana Field, where they compiled the best home record in baseball.
Manager Joe Maddon thought his young players would handle the tough Philly fans just fine after playing well in September and October at Fenway Park, where they won two of three from the Red Sox during the AL championship series.
Maddon said before Game 4 that he was amused by the crowd that traded barbs with him and taunted Longoria the night before with chants of "Eva! Eva!" But no one's laughing now with the Rays facing possible elimination in Game 5 Monday night.
Longoria was 0-for-4 with three strikeouts Sunday. Pena went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts, leaving Tampa Bay's No. 3 and cleanup hitter a combined 0-for-29 with 15 strikeouts in the series.
Of the eight runs the Rays scored in Games 2 and 3, only one came on a hit. They won one of the two, though, and Maddon noted he wasn't overly concerned because his team is capable of winning in a variety of ways.---- "One of the things I've talked about a lot since I've gotten here is the balance throughout the team," the third-year manager said. "I don't want to build a team based on one component, whether it's power or speed or whatever."
But small ball is not getting the job done.
The Rays hit a record 16 home runs against Boston in the ALCS and have 25 overall this postseason. But just three have come in World Series two by Carl Crawford, who hit a solo shot off Joe Blanton on Sunday night, and the other Eric Hinske's pinch-hit homer off the Phillies starter.
Tampa Bay's starting pitching, outstanding much of the postseason, also has faltered in Philadelphia.
Andy Sonanstine lost his last three decisions of the regular season, but pitched well in his first two starts of the playoffs to beat the Chicago White Sox in the opening round and Boston in Game 4 of the ALCS.
He struggled with his command Sunday night, walking two one with the bases loaded in the first inning after allowing just 1.72 walks per nine innings during the regular season, sixth best in the AL.
The right-hander allowed five runs and six hits in four innings, including Ryan Howard's three-run homer that broke the game open.