I’ll be blunt, I’m damn happy that the series against the Orioles is over. Baltimore, I like you. I really respect your team and what Buck Showalter’s done. And to be honest, I’m excited about the idea of a future competitive rivalry between the Rays and the O’s similar to that of the Red Sox and Yankees…minus the Neanderthal like fans of course. However, your bullpen is no joke, and I’m more than happy to see the Rays walk into Toronto, where the potential to get more than two runs on three hits in 10 plus innings is greater.
Today’s game was a hairy one to say the least. But at least the Rays offense can put a feather in their collective caps over something: after averaging a mere 3.2 runs per game in the first five games of their current eight game road trip, the Rays really broke the door open by scoring nine runs. I’m not breaking out the ticker-tape and streamers just yet; the Rays have scored, on average, only 4.16 runs per game which is just under their season average of 4.51 runs per game. What’s more, the Blue Jays are averaging 4.65 runs per game, and have won four out of their last five at home, while scoring 33 runs.
The Rays haven’t been so hot on this road trip. Going 2-4 so far, they will need take the next two games from the Blue Jays if they’re to come home Wednesday 4-4 following this eight game stint on the road. Beating a very good Blue Jays team may not be so easy. Without even focusing on the Jays, a couple of things stand in the way of the Rays going into Toronto: A) The Rays offense not scoring enough runs, and B) The starting rotation not getting quality starts.
The Rays have scored 25 runs over the course of the last six games. In that span of time, Tampa Bay has stranded 46 runners on the bags. Too, they’ve had runners in scoring position 62 times, yet they only capitalized on those 62 runners in scoring position 12 times. That’s way too many runners left on base in critical situations.
It was, however, encouraging to see Tampa Bay depend on base-hits to drive in runners instead of leaning on the big bats to hit home runs. Only two of the Rays nine runs came off of, clutch, one run blasts from Elliot Johnson and Ben Zobrist. Those runs were, in the scheme of things, very important. But, the BJ Upton/Luke Scott/Carlos Pena’s on the roster, all too often, try to play the role of hero by hitting dingers, when RBI base-hits would suffice. Tampa Bay was ultimately able to get on base and drive in runs today, with only Scott and Sean Rodriguez not finding they way on base. It was also encouraging to see Pena start to come out of his slump, going two for five with two doubles, two RBI, and one run. With the uncertainty of whether Desmond Jennings will be in the lineup in the forthcoming days, the Rays will need to make sure that approach the Blue Jays similarly to how they approached the plate today.
One problem the Rays were having was that the starting pitchers were not able to go deeper into games. But, with the exception of Matt Moore who only went 4.1 innings Saturday, the starting rotation has been able to start chewing up the innings. Jeff Niemann, who will take the bump opposite of Brandon Morrow in the first game of two two game set against the Blue Jays, was able to go seven solid innings against the Yankees. Niemann gave up only one run on four hits in that start. James Shields and Jeremy Hellickson are the two other pitchers that have been able to get quality starts on this road trip.
To me, it’s not a question of whether the pitchers are going deep enough into games. Rather, it’s a question of whether they’re giving up too many runs. Tampa Bay’s pitching is going to have to shut down a very potent Joey Bats and Co, which in turn gives the offense the opportunity to chip away a very good Brandon Morrow and Co. It’s not beyond the realm of possibility that Tampa Bay could walk away from the Rogers Center on a four game winning streak.
Notable Stat Lines
- Ben Zobrist 3-4. HR, 3 RBI
- Matt Joyce 2-5. RBI
- Will Rhymes 2-4. RBI
- Matt Joyce 2-5. Run, RBI
- Carlos Pena 2-5. Two doubles, Run, 2 RBI
- Elliot Johnson 3-4. HR, 3 Run, 2 RBI
- James Shields W (6-1) 6.1 IP, 7 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, 5 K’s
- Fernando Rodney S (10) 1 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 1 K
- Joel Peralta H. 1 IP, 1 H, 1 ER, 1 K