“The Tampa Bay Rays have played so well recently it’s hard to believe their lineup failed to produce a base runner a little over a week ago,” noted the author of ESPN’s preview of tonight’s match-up, which pits Matt Moore (10-7, 3.57 ERA) against Jarrod Parker (8-7, 3.48 ERA). I’ll give them some credit for what was written, if only because ESPN actually gave the Rays a compliment, albeit a backhanded one. The forgot to acknowledge that Tampa Bay has been doing well since the All-Star break. I’m more inclined to debate them though, after all, the Rays won seven straight a game prior to being perfecto’d…not to mention that they’ve seemingly turned that corner. Besides, did you really think those fat bloated blowhards would offer the Rays anything but a backhanded compliment?!
Any who, the Rays have been playing on another level lately where five run games almost seem par for the course. The rule, not the exception as it were. We like that. We also like that Tampa Bay starts the night just two-and-a-half games behind the Yankees in the AL East, while leading the AL wild-card race. That certainly doesn’t suck. Ponder this, if you will: The Rays have outscored their opponents 134 to 62 over the last 30 games while going 21-9. Too, on July 24th, the Rays were eight games behind the Yankees and sixth in the wildcard race. Their resurgence has been quite refreshing.
Sure, there are still a number of things that the Rays needs to work on offensively. But I can’t help but feel that the Rays are finally putting action to words. Joe Maddon has said all along, Tampa Bay was better than the results indicated back in June and July. I don’t think his sentiments are up for debate any longer.
Some thoughts going forward. The addition of a few more bats in the lineup when the rosters expand in September is all but certain. Lots of speculation has been made over the potential of Henry Wrigley or Leslie Anderson (or both) getting called up on September first. At this point, I’d think it to be reasonable to assume that Wrigley will be making his was up sooner than later. Call me crazy, but the way that Carlos Pena has been playing doesn’t really inspire that much fear in the opposing pitcher. Pena hasn’t quite cut it, and the Rays will need to bolster their lineup from within before the post-season. Henry Wrigley or Leslie Anderson, two first-basemen, would give the Rays some defensive flexibility. I’d also imagine that if Robinson Chirinos isn’t reactivated by the end of the month, Chris Gimenez will likely be recalled.
Now Cobber…the Rays find themselves in a convoluted situation with Alex Cobb, especially with the imminent return of Jeff Niemann, while also taking into consideration what Cobb has given the Rays this season. What’s more, Cobb has accrued a significantly higher number of innings under his belt this season than Jeff Niemann. For all intents and purposes, Alex Cobb has been the Rays fifth starter in 2012, not Jeff Niemann. Call me crazy, but Cobbs 9 IP/4 H/0 R/2 BB/8 K gem last all but solidified his position in the starting rotation. Cobb was incredible, and it would be a damn shame to the see him get bumped down to the pen because of Niemann…who, incidentally, hasn’t been so hot in his rehab stint. In either case, Cobb certainly hasn’t made it easy for Niemann to just reclaim what was his after Spring Training. It also bears mentioning that with a certain degree of certainty, Cesar Ramos, Brandon Gomes, and possibly Chris Archer will return to the fold to help bolster an already lights-out bullpen. As much as I’d like to speculate any further, there’s a game to be played tonight.
Jarrod Parker will toe the mound for the A’s tonight. Parker is coming off of a complete game shutout of the Indians where he gave up only six hits while inducing 17 ground balls and 11 fly balls. He’s a decent pitcher, though he’s given up four or more runs in six of his 21 starts. The A’s have only won two of those six games. Tampa Bay has posted a combined .348 BA/.423 OBP/.435 SLG/.858 OPS line against, with a pair of doubles, three RBI, and three walks in 23 total at-bats. Ryan Roberts (2-3, RBI), Jeff Keppinger (2-3, 2B), Desmond Jennings (1-2, 2 BB), and Carlos Pena (1-3, 2B) have had their way with Parker, and will play an integral role against him tonight. Parker had a decent outing against Tampa Bay on August 1st, allowing three runs in six innings of a 4-1 loss. It should be noted that that was prior to the Rays offensive upsurge.
Rays 8/24/12 Starting Lineup
Noteworthiness: Longoria is back at DH tonight with Luke Scott getting the day off. Jennings is also back in there in the top of the lineup. As always, Let’s Go Rays!