OAKLAND -- After Monday night's extra-inning loss at the Coliseum, Rays manager Joe Maddon said he believes his team is just as good as the A's -- with one addendum: "We've got to prove it on the field."
Tuesday, however, brought much of the same. Drew Smyly was decent in his first start in a Tampa Bay uniform, but the Rays missed chance after chance to score, and they were less than stellar with the fundamentals.
The A's, owners of baseball's best record, took advantage, earning a 3-0 victory and taking a 2-0 series edge. The Rays will look to avoid a sweep Wednesday afternoon.
"When you don't score points, man, everything else is magnified," said Maddon. "Good at-bats, saw a lot of pitches against Jason [Hammel]. We were in good position a lot to get things done, and we just didn't. That's really the tale of the game. Our pitching was definitely good enough to win tonight."
Smyly scattered seven hits and two walks over 5 1/3 innings, and he was charged with three runs while striking out six. The southpaw finished at 107 pitches, exiting after Nate Freiman's sixth-inning double made it 2-0.
"I thought I threw pretty good," Smyly said. "Pitch count got up, kind of. I worked a couple deep counts. I missed my pitch against the last batter, Freiman, but besides that I thought I threw the ball well."
The Rays appeared to have a chance to get Derek Norris at home on Freiman's hit, but Yunel Escobar made a wild relay throw that also allowed Freiman to advance to third.
"I just think that he was surprised that the guy went," Maddon said of Escobar. "It wasn't like he should have probably been able to throw more quickly. From what I understand, he did not hear the trail man telling him what to do, and that's why he had to rush the throw and it wasn't that good. He could have had a pretty good shot."
Left-hander Jeff Beliveau replaced Smyly and promptly gave up a run-scoring single to Josh Reddick.
"Right up to that hit by Freiman, [Smyly] kept them in pretty good check," Maddon said. "I thought he made good pitches when he had to, I thought he and [catcher Curt] Casali worked well together. I thought, for a first time out, it was pretty darn good."
The Rays' biggest shortcoming, though, was with the bats. They tagged Hammel for seven hits and four walks in 5 2/3 frames -- and yet, somehow, Hammel put up a zero in the run column.
Tampa had multiple baserunners in the second, third, fourth and fifth innings, but Hammel induced two double plays and the Rays went 0-for-5 with men in scoring position.
"We had baserunners all over the place," Maddon said. "When you don't hit like that, it really looks as though you might not be fully there. We've just got to get those knocks, a couple knocks. We just haven't. That's been our biggest issue, is the ability to drive in runs. We had the guys out there again, we just could not get them home."
Poor baserunning didn't help, either: In the fifth, Desmond Jennings ran into the first out at third on a grounder to short.
The Rays left nine runners on base and the A's left 10, raising the two-game total to 44 between them.
Tampa Bay hit the ball hard off Hammel, who began his career with the Rays from 2006-08. But the right-hander did just enough to keep the Rays off the board, and they went hitless in 3 1/3 innings against the Oakland bullpen.
"I thought Hammel pitched really well, compared to what he has been doing, apparently," Ben Zobrist said. "I didn't really see anything good to hit. And the ones that we did hit hard were not in the right spot."
After winning five consecutive series, the Rays have now dropped two straight sets and five of their last six games.
On the bright side, their pitching staff became the fastest ever to 1,000 strikeouts on Tuesday, achieving the feat in the 113th game of the season. The 2013 Tigers did it in 114 games.
Aaron Leibowitz is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.