The GBT – The Good, The Bad and The Telling sandwich, where The Bad is nice and lean and the The Telling is ripe.

RAYS (boxscore)

THE GOOD: Can It Be This Simple? In the 10 games before Evan Longoria came off the DL, the Rays averaged just 2.5 runs per game. In the 6 games since he came back, the Rays are averaging 6.2 runs per game. Does he really make everybody else that much better? Does having Longo in the lineup take pressure off other guys like Matt Joyce and Ben Zobrist who no longer feel the need to carry the offense? Or maybe it is all just an odd coincidence…James Shields. This is the James Shields the Rays need. It was an ugly performance without his best stuff. He only had 5 swing-and-misses with the changeup. He only struck out 2 batters and he gave up his standard 2-run home run. But he stuck with the new formula of fastballs (55 of 99 pitches) and gutted out 7 innings and kept the Rays in it. The Rays need the occasional great start, but they need his gutty starts more…Brian Dozier. With the bases loaded and 1 out in the 10th inning, Dozier fielded a bouncing ground ball (above) and instead of going home or trying to turn two, he went to first for the safe play, and the Rays took the lead for good. On the one hand, Dozier was at double-play depth and it sounded after the game as though he decided before the play ever happened that home was not an option with Desmond Jennings on third, but Dez looked like he was only jogging home. And it would have been a tough double-play, but it looked like he had a play at second. It just doesn’t seem like that is a good spot for the “safe” play. A gift. But the Rays will take it.

THE BAD: Sac Bunts. Before the Dozier play. Ben Zobrist bunted the runners over to second and third. A bad play? Not necessarily. The Rays Win Expectancy did improve modestly on that play from 69.8% to 71.9%. And obviously it worked as the Rays went on to score 4 runs that inning and win the game. But the play does take the bat out of not one, but two of the Rays best bats. Not only did Zorilla sacrifice himself, but it opened up first base for the Twins to intentionally walk Evan Longoria. On the plus-side, walking Longo brought up Jeff Keppinger, who never strikeouts, in a situation where a strikeout is the only play that really hurts the Rays (or a double-play, which he almost did, but we’ll ignore that).

THE TELLING: On Friday and Saturday, Joe Maddon used the same lineup. How rare is that? In 114 games, he has already used 107 different batting orders and is on pace for 148.  Last year he used 130 different lineups…The Rays have now won 6 in a row for the 3rd time this season…The Rays are now 13-1 in the last 14 games with Evan Longoria in the lineup and 20-8 overall…The Rays are now leading the Wild Card race, one-half game ahead of the Orioles, and one game ahead of the A’s. The Rays are also just 5 games behind the Yankees, just 25 days after being 10.5 games back in the division…According to CoolStandings.com, the Rays now have a 55.8% chance of making the playoffs. It was less than 20% just 2 weeks ago.

THE JUNKYARD DOGS WEBTOPIA

  • Evan Longoria might get tonight off depending on how he feels following the long flight to Seattle. [TampaBay.com]
  • Top prospect Hak-Ju Lee suffered a possible oblique injury. It’s unclear how long he’ll be sidelined. [Montgomery Advertiser]
  • Normally leadoff hitters are expected to see a few pitches leading off the game. Desmond Jennings is taking the opposite approach with success. [TampaBay.com]
  • James Shields talks about his recent change to start using his fastball more often. [TBO.com]
  • Jamal Wilburg noticed that Matt Joyce hit his home run on Friday using Elliot Johnson’s bat, and then promtly broke it. Joyce had another EJ bat on Saturday and went yard again. [Bleacher Report]
  • The Bucs are still missing tackles. [JoeBucsFan]

DOWN ON THE FARM

Toledo 4, DURHAM 3. Chris Archer struck out 5 in 6 innings, but gave up 4 runs. His ERA is now 4.08…DH Henry Wrigley had a double, and is hitting .310…LF Leslie Anderson was 1-4 and is hitting .308…C Chris Gimenez went 1-4 and is now hitting .332.

MONTGOMERY 5, Jackson 2. Nick Barnese allowed 2 runs in 6 innings. He struck out 3 and walked 2…RF Mikie Mahtook hit his 4th home run in 20 games since being promoted. He also had a walk and is hitting .299…2B Derek Dietrich was 1-3 and is hitting .255.

Jupiter 5, CHARLOTTE 4 (gm 1). Albert Suarez gave up 1 run in 4 innings with a strikeout and a walk…1B Steven Tinoco was 4-4 and drove in 2.

Jupiter 6, CHARLOTTE 1 (gm 2). Elizer Suero last just 1.1 innings, giving up 5 runs (4 earned).

West Michigan 3, BOWLING GREEN 2. DH Jeff Malm went 1-4 with a double and an RBI…2B Ryan Brett hit his 6th home run.

Lowell 5, HUDSON VALLEY 2. 3B Richie Shaffer went 1-4 with 2 strikeouts and is now hitting .227 in his first 13 games as a pro.

PRINCETON 1, Greeneville 0. The Rays beat local Tampa product Lance McCullers who was making just his 2nd pro start…Bruedlin Suero had his second straight start with 6 shutout innings. His ERA is now 3.70.

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10 Comments

  1. s says:

    why are we hitting better? could it be that we are getting more aggressive early in the count. did anyone see the stats that they put up on jennings about his average and the pitch count? it was unreal, his average on 1st pitch ball hit was near .450, yet it dwindled down drastically after that. that stat alone should change our hitting-walk theory.

    everyone is looking at evan's return, but i would suspect that the "work the pitch count" stuff has been put on hold for a while. notice our BB totals are down also. funny how that works, stop trying to get walks, all of a sudden we're hitting, scoring runs, and winning. odd huh?

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    • Tom says:

      Jenning numbers on the 1st pitch may be so great because he goes up there looking for one specific pitch and if he gets it he rips it otherwise he takes. Thos numbers are also skewed a bit because it does not account for when he fouls a pitch off or misses completely.

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      • s says:

        do you not see a difference in this team's batting over the week? are we not more agressive? where'd the walks go?

        "he goes up there looking for one specific pitch and if he gets it he rips it otherwise he takes"
        isn't this what a ton of MLB players do? look on "their" pitch?

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        • Tom says:

          In the past 6 games we have averaged 3.0 walks/game as compare to 3.6 in all other games so the walks are still there. I think one reason the offense has looked so good is because Toronto's pitching is 12th in the AL and the Twins is last by ERA.

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    • Gus says:

      For the last 3 years, the book on the rays is to jam them fastballs early when they take, and then get them to chase. This adjustment to swing early in the count caught Minnesota groving first pitch fastballs. What was amazing was that the Twins pitchers never really adjusted.

      Longo provides an attitude adjustment -- we are going to score by hitting, not working counts and trying to walk. Des also is the exact kind of table setter you want -- aggressive but still with a sense of the strike zone.

      Matt Joyce needs to play every day (no platoon), Zobrist in the infield every day and Longo needs to stay healthy: if so, with this pitching staff, this team has a chance to win the whole thing.

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      • KT says:

        I agree with you guys. Did you notice how stunned a few of the starters we faced over this streak have been? I've read more than one quote that read something like, "I was surprised with how aggressive they were, I got ambushed".

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  2. brianknowsbest says:

    I respectfully disagree with scarifice bunt being on the bad. I love the SAC bunt, and I love it even more when your playing for at least one run. Sure, twins chose to walk longoria, but they are also now forcing their pitcher to throw strikes.

    I know there is data proving that it can be inefficient way to score runs. But i think i nthe future there will be dusputing data proving that it is the safest way to get a win in a tied ball game. ( if there isnt already)

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  3. Hal says:

    Maddon hates the bunt and the numbers back him up in the long run, but I didn't hate the bunt there. Dez on third with bases loaded and Kepp coming up - sorta like my chances there; allthough Kepp will ground into his fair share of double plays.

    And whats up with Dez this year? When he finally came up last year, he was shot out of a cannon - DeWayne and BA never stopped talking about his high effort level. Seems that there's been more than a few instances of his inner BJ coming out this year.

    Finally, I agree with much written above; Longo does help, we do seem way more aggressive at the dish. But playing Toronto and Minnesota helps a little too. Seattle has been playing good ball lately (has anyone noticed Jaso? Just sayin), so lets keep it going.

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    • Andy says:

      Inner BJ, huh? Was wonderin the same thing today, but about Keppinger of all people! Like Hal said, "Kepp will ground into his fair share of double plays" as he did today. However, it seemed like he was jogging to 1st, at least the tail end of the run as shown when the throw to 1st arrived!! Yeah, he's not that quick, but if hustling to 1st is expected of one, it should be of all; in fact, Maddon has verbalized this as his 1 expectation of his team! So, what gives???

      On a more upbeat note, if the Rays have made up this much ground (5.5 games) in 1 month, then if we do it again (hopefully w/Longo included for the duration!!), then we'll be right there w/the Yuckees, fighting for the place at the top :D

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  4. Rob says:

    First of all, I have to say I didn't think the Rays could compete. I have been saying for weeks that the season is over, but it obviously isn't. If they make the playoffs, I will gladly eat my words.

    On another note, why is the club leaving strategic decisions up to the players? If Maddon wanted Zobrist to swing away, why doesn't he give him the sign for swing away? Clearly, from Maddon's comments, Zobrist made the decision to bunt on his own. I don't fault Zobrist for this (unless he missed or ignored a sign) - management should make it clear that they are responsible for those decisions. Isn't that their job? What was Maddon doing in the dugout during this at bat?

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