ST. PETERSBURG -- Anyone searching for a reason why the Rays trailed the Yankees by four games in the American League East when play commenced Friday evening, needed to look no further than Tampa Bay's bullpen.
The Rays have blown three ninth-inning leads in the last 16 games (compared to two all last season), and have let 28 leads slip away this year. Fifteen of their 22 losses have come in games in which their offense had given them the lead. The bullpen has a 4.80 ERA, worst in the American League and second worst in the Majors entering Friday.
And no one is more aware of those shortcomings than manager Joe Maddon.
"When you break us down, we are much better than that," Maddon declared Friday. "We should be in a much better spot right now. But we're not.
"We should be the best team in baseball if we had just done what we ordinarily do and finish off games. We've got to get our mojo back, somehow."
Fernando Rodney's ERA going into Friday was 5.40 -- nine times his record-setting ERA last season. He had blown four saves -- twice as many as he blew all last year. Nevertheless, Maddon said Friday he has no intention of replacing Rodney as Tampa Bay's closer.
"It's not like he's been awful. He has not been awful," Maddon said. "It's so close between feeling really good about himself and not feeling good about himself. Physically, he's fine."
That's something Maddon believes is true for the rest of his bullpen.
"We've been very unfortunate in the latter parts of game," the manager said. "It's not a physical thing. I think it gets more psychological. An unpredictable bullpen can be difficult. I think our confidence has been hit a little bit. We've just got to get back on that horse.
"Everyone would be smiling and happy right now if we had just been able to finish some games off. Those ninth-inning losses, those are the ones you want to throw in the waste basket."
Moore downplays unbeaten mark, exclusive company
ST. PETERSBURG -- Matt Moore prefers not to talk about it, but if he beats the Yankees on Saturday, he will become the fifth-youngest pitcher -- and the second-youngest left-hander since Babe Ruth in 1916 -- to begin a season 9-0 exclusively as a starter.
The only pitchers to reach 9-0 at a younger age were lefty Ken Holtzman, who was 21 with the Cubs in 1967, and right-handers Livan Hernandez (22) with the Marlins in 1997, Roger Clemens (23) with the Red Sox in 1986, and Jered Weaver (23) with the Angels in 2006.
"What that guy [Ruth] did and what I'm doing right now are two different things," Moore insisted Friday. "To be honest with you, it really doesn't mean that much."
Rays' manager Joe Maddon appreciates Moore's focus on the task at hand.
"Talking about yourself is not going to help you get guys out," Maddon said. "And he knows it. I like the way he's handling it. He'll be able to talk about it when the season is over."
'Little different' for Brignac in return to The Trop
ST. PETERSBURG -- Former Rays infielder Reid Brignac, who was acquired by the Yankees from the Rockies last Saturday for cash considerations, admitted it felt "a little different" walking by the double doors leading to the Rays' clubhouse on Friday.
"I never walked past these doors from the other side before," he said, smiling.
"It's been kind of a whirlwind," Brignac said of the past week. "I've been up and down emotionally. Hopefully, I can stick around for a while. It would be nice."
• Matt Joyce was back in the Rays' lineup Friday, batting leadoff for just the sixth time in his Major League career.
"It was more of a precautionary thing," said Joyce, who left Tuesday's game because of tightness in his left hamstring before sitting out Wednesday's game. "You don't want to do something and be out a long time."
• By reaching base in 45 of the Rays' first 46 games, Evan Longoria became the first player in the Major Leagues since 1999 -- and just 12th American Leaguer since 1916 -- to do so.
The others were Hall of Famers Ted Williams (twice), Luke Appling, Hank Greenberg, Lou Gehrig (three times), and Jimmie Foxx, as well as Derek Jeter, Frank Thomas, Edgar Martinez, Toby Harrah, Lou Blue and Harry Hooper.
• Although David Price hasn't suffered any setbacks in his recovery from a left triceps strain, it appears unlikely he will be ready to return as soon as he is is eligible to come off the disabled list on May 31. Maddon has said Price will probably make at least one minor league rehab start before he returns to the Rays' rotation.
"I have nothing new to report," Maddon said Friday. "I don't have any idea of a finish line there yet."
• Durham pitchers continue to lead all Triple-A teams with 439 strikeouts this season entering Friday.
Jim Hawkins is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.