The Tampa Bay Rays walked into the Trop Friday on the heels of a disappointing 2-7 road trip, and a 5-10 record overall. Many a fan has waved the white flag on our beloved Rays, admitting defeat after only a handful of games. Sometimes it’s hard to see the forest from the trees.
The beauty of baseball is in the length of the season. I’m reminded of the old adage, the baseball season is a marathon, not a sprint. The length of the season allows for narratives to fully work themselves out. And when you’re on a streak of any type — be it winning or losing — it can be easy to forget that things can and will be any other way. Ideally speaking, slumps should work themselves out with little to no effect in the scheme of things.
It goes without saying, a little encouragement may be necessary to right the ship. Case in point, Friday’s player only meeting prior to the game. The short gathering was spearheaded by Jose Molina and Evan Longoria following a rough first few weeks of the season. Per Marc Topkin, the players were complimented for what they were doing right and told not to panic and to stay patient. Playing the part of team leader, Longoria reminded the players to trust the work that they’ve put in.
Rays manager Joe Maddon also noted,
“I still think we’re searching for an identity as a group. But I like what we’re doing right now. I think it’s on the horizon.”
Did the meeting have anything to do with their 8-3 win over the Athletics? Should the win be attributed to the Rays fourth consecutive strong offensive showing? Whatever the case, the Rays seem to be breaking out of their offensive slump, and none too soon.
A bulleted game summary follows.
- It looked as if it would be a long night at the start of the game. The A’s hot hitting center fielder Coco Crisp (2-4, 2 R, RBI, HR) hit a line drive double into right field on the very first pitch of the game, and was promptly moved over to third on a John Jaso fly ball. After Seth Smith walked on four pitches, Jed Lowrie smoked a single to center which drove in Crisp. Brandon Moss got in on the action, slapping an RBI single to left, though Kelly Johnson fielded the hit quickly and cleanly, and threw to third. Lowrie had no chance of making it to third, so he stopped at second. Moss, on the other hand, kept going and got caught up in a rundown. A groundout ended the inning. The A’s would only tack on one more run on a seventh inning Crisp homer to right.
- Down by two but not out, Desmond Jennings (0-3, 2 R, 2 BB, SB) started the Rays half of the first with a five pitch walk, advancing to second on a productive Kelly Johnson groundout. Ben Zobrist (2-4, 2 R, 2 RBI) brought Jennings home when he slapped a 1-1 changeup into center field. Evan Longoria struck out, Shelly Duncon walked, and Sean Rodriguez hit a hard grounder between third base and shortstop, driving home Zobrist. The dynamic duo of Ryan Roberts (2-4, RBI) and Jose Lobaton would follow. Roberts reached on an infield grounder to the shortstop, while Lobaton proceeded to plop a two-RBI base-hit into left field, giving the Rays a lead they would never relinquish. It bears mentioning that Brett Anderson made an awkward play for the Roberts grounder, potentially spraining his ankle (he was removed from the game at the start of the next inning after having thrown only 39 pitches).
- The Rays would tack on four more runs in the third and fourth innings. Ryan Roberts drove in Shelley Duncan (1-3, 2 RBI) on a single to center following Duncan’s double to lead off the third. Desmond Jennings scored on a fourth inning Ben Zobrist single. Evan Longoria (1-4, 2 R, 2 RBI, HR) followed that up by crushing a two-run 424 foot homer to left field.
- On Alex Cobb’s start, Joe Maddon noted that he did not have his best stuff, but was definitely efficient, with a “workmanlike” effort. The question begs, though Cobb held the AL leading A’s to only three runs, was he any good last night? DRaysBay asserts,
“The Tropicana Field faithful gave him a standing ovation after he was lifted one out into the eighth inning with a man on second base. He struck out three Athletics in his 7.1 innings of work, walking one and giving up ten hits. On a different day, those 13 baserunners would have meant more runs scored. Cobb’s fastball was effective. He threw a fastball over 50% of the time, and threw it for a strike over 70% of the time. His secondary pitches were less effective, though. Last year, Cobb was at his best when he pounded the zone with his changeup and curve, racking up the strikes at a higher rate on each than with his fastball. Today, his changeup produced a strike 63% of the time, and his curve only 48% of the time (with no whiffs out of 29 tries). If this had been the first time I was scouting Cobb, I would have said that he was a pitcher with limited upside who would struggle in the long term against major league pitching. This is not the first time I’m seeing Cobb, though, so my takeaway is different. When your starter can pitch significantly worse than his usual self and still get you into the eighth inning while allowing only three runs, you have something special. Cobb may not have been good, but he is good.
- Closer Fernando Rodney came on in the ninth in a non-save situation, and nearly turned it into a save scenario. Rodney walked the first two batters and wasn’t particularly close to the zone with his misses. After loading the bases, Rodney struck out John Jaso, then induced a 1-2-3 Seth Smith double play to end the game. Though he’s only accrued 4.2 innings of work this season, that he’s given up four walks and five hits is enough for us to feel worried over his command, especially when you take his history into consideration.
The New What Next:
Jeremy Hellickson and the Rays will face Jarrod Parker Saturday night. Parker has averaged just six innings a game in his young career, giving the Rays another chance to continue their hot hitting. It also gives Tampa Bay a chance to drive up the pitch count, and get into the A’s bullpen. Patience at the plate my dear Rays, patience.
Rays 4/20/13 Starting Lineup:
- It’s 4/20, I wonder what Scott Kazmir is up to today?
- The Rays broke their 0’fer with the bases loaded last night on Lobaton’s first inning bloop single. It wasn’t a grand-slam, but it’ll do.
- Tampa Bay went 7-12 (58%) wRISP Friday night, and are now 11-29 (39%) with runners in scoring position over the last four games.