(AP) — Already struggling, the Tampa Bay Rays’ offense disappeared against Boston’s Clay Buccholz.
Buchholz didn’t allow a hit until Kelly Johnson’s broken-bat single leading off the eighth inning, and the Red Sox beat the Rays 5-0 on Sunday.
“Psychologically throughout the team, we’ve got to hit the ball better to get everybody’s spirits up,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “When you’re not hitting the ball well, you get that bad vibe among the group. It’s hard to really keep them pushing, moving or motivated, but we’ll get going. We’re just not hitting the ball.”
Entering Sunday, the Rays were batting a paltry .221 — and that dipped nine points in the loss. They’ve scored 33 runs, their fewest after 11 games.
They haven’t homered in six games and have just four — tied with Kansas City for the fewest in the AL and two ahead of Miami’s major-league low.
“Obviously, we want to be different, and we’re confident it’s going to be different,” Johnson said. “You just need something to spark it, and we’re going to have to find that spark somewhere.”
Buchholz, who threw a no-hitter in just his second career start in 2007, allowed two hits and four walks in eight innings and struck out a career-high 11. He had the Rays’ hitters swinging and missing a lot early.
“He was very good today,” Maddon said. “And to the other point, we’ve just got to do more offensively. We’re a lot more than we’ve put out there to this point. We’re played a lot of really good defense, but we just haven’t hit the ball effectively.”
Johnson singled with an 0-1 count on Buchholz’s 101st pitch, sending the ball over first baseman Mike Napoli while the top part of the bat landed near the front edge of the infield between first and second. Buchholz induced Sam Fuld to ground into a double play and then allowed Desmond Jennings’ double off the left-field wall. Ben Zobrist flied out to left fielder Jackie Bradley Jr.
Johnson said everyone knew what was happening.
“Oh, yeah, before you can score you have to get a hit,” he said. “But at that point in the game, that’s pretty much in the forefront of your mind.”
Buchholz (3-0) lowered his ERA to 0.41, allowing one earned run in 22 innings He left after 109 pitches, and Andrew Miller finished with a one-hit ninth.
Alex Cobb (1-1) gave up four runs — three earned — and seven hits in 6 2-3 innings, and Tampa Bay lost for the fifth time in six games. The Rays have eight runs in their last six games, including four in their last four.
Boston took a 4-0 lead in the third. Mike Napoli hit a two-run double to deep right-center and a Stephen Drew hit into a run-scoring, bases-loaded forceout. After first baseman James Loney threw to second, shortstop Yunel Escobar threw wildly past Loney trying for a double play, and Daniel Nava scored from second as the ball wound up in Boston’s dugout for an error.
Will Middlebrooks added a sacrifice fly in the eighth against Jamey Wright.
NOTES: The teams finish the rain-shortened series Monday when Jeremy Hellickson (0-1) pitches for Tampa Bay against Ryan Dempster (0-1). The opener of the four-game series was postponed by rain on Friday night. … Buchholz has allowed two earned runs or fewer in 10 of 15 starts against the Rays. … Red Sox starters have held opponents to three or fewer runs in all 11 games.