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.