Good thing the Oakland Athletics are around to make the Tampa Bay Rays defense not look so bad on paper.

That’s about the only silver lining when it comes to how the Rays have been playing in the field through 69 games. Tampa Bay has committed 49 errors over that span, an average of 0.71 per game. That places them next to last in Major League Baseball behind the A’s and their abysmal total of 63 through 66 games.

The latest bumbling and stumbling occurred again Thursday night against the Detroit Tigers. Infielder Daniel Robertson, starting at shortstop in place of Tim Beckham, doubled his error total from two to four. The second of those resulted in a Tigers run in the seventh inning that put Detroit ahead, 3-2. Robertson lost his footing trying to field a routine, two-out grounder off the bat of Victor Martinez and the error allowed Ian Kinsler to touch home.

Tampa lost the game 5-3 on a walk-off, ninth-inning home run from Miguel Cabrera. Only one of Robertson’s errors resulted in an unearned run and the Rays lost by two, but considering what could have played out, the point remains.

Cabrera hit his game-winner off reliever Tommy Hunter as the Rays were trying to extend the game into extra innings. Had Robertson fielded that seventh-inning grounder cleanly and thrown to first for the third out, the Rays would have still been tied 2-2. Steven Souza Jr.’s eighth-inning home run that tied the game back up 3-3 could have produced a 3-2 advantage, setting up closer Alex Colome for a save situation later in the ninth.

That’s also assuming the Tigers remained scoreless in the home half of the eighth like they did Thursday, but that’s a butterfly effect type variable that we’ll never know the answer to.

One thing that is certain is this: The Rays need to tighten up in the field. And where has the team’s weakness been?

Right up the middle, unfortunately.

The main culprits for booted balls and errant throws are the double-play combo of second baseman Brad Miller (8) and shortstop Beckham (7), center fielder Kevin Kiermaier (6) and primary catcher Derek Norris (6).

The oddity in that foursome is Kiermaier, a two-time Gold Glove Award winner whose main attributes are his glove, arm and hustle. The center fielder and Miller are both on the 10-day disabled list and Beckham is attempting to play through knee soreness.

Eric Horchy is a staff writer with OutsidePitchMLB.com. You can follow and interact with him on Twitter: @EricHorchy

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