A conversation about the Tampa Bay Rays’ offense is no longer as dire, but more consistency is needed.
Two games with a combined 27 runs in victories over the New York Yankees on Friday and Saturday at Tropicana Field helped quiet some of the alarm about the Rays’ production. Before then, eyebrows were raised about what had become one of the majors’ weakest offenses. A 10-2 rout by New York in the series opener Thursday played to the script. However, eight combined runs in the seventh and eighth innings of Friday’s 11-5 victory marked a recovery’s beginning.
"We’ve been swinging the bats well the whole season without any luck," Rays manager Joe Maddon said after Saturday’s 16-1 victory over the Yankees.
"We’re getting pitches, and we’re not missing them. I’m really proud of our guys the way they’ve hung in through these first couple weeks of the season."
There remains work to do, of course. The Rays (9-10) rank 21st in team batting average (.239), they’re tied for 21st in hits (152) and they’re tied for 22nd in runs scored (75). Even after the outbursts Friday and Saturday, they were unable scrape together more than a single run in a 12-inning loss Sunday to the Yankees.
The Minnesota Twins will offer opportunity in the upcoming three-game series at Tropicana Field. They rank 28th in team ERA (4.90), and only five teams have allowed more than the 91 runs they have surrendered through 18 games. But at 9-9, they have won six of nine contests since April 11.
For Tampa Bay, ace left-hander David Price will start in the opener Tuesday. Then two of the contenders for the fifth-starter job in spring training — right-hander Jake Odorizzi and left-hander Erik Bedard — will take the mound in the second and third games.
Will the Rays avoid another lull? Will they avoid high highs and low lows, instead moving forward with more steady offensive numbers?
Learning the answers to both questions is reason enough to pay attention.
Chris Colabello (Twins): He hit .500 with six RBI in 24 at-bats throughout six games from April 15-20. He produced at least two hits in each contest four times during the span. He has hit .353 for the season with one home run and 20 RBI.
James Loney (Rays): He hit .421 with five RBI in 19 at-bats throughout five games from April 14-20. He had two hits in each game in all but one contest during the stretch (April 16 vs. Baltimore). He has hit .271 for the season with one home run and 10 RBI.
Aaron Hicks (Twins): He hit .100 in 20 at-bats during six games from April 15-20. He went hitless in four games during the span. He has hit .167 for the season with four RBI.
David DeJesus (Rays): He went hitless in 13 at-bats during five games from April 14-20. He’s in the middle of a 0-for-24 slump that extends to an April 8 victory over the Kansas City Royals. He has hit .119 for the season.
5: Innings that Price pitched in Thursday’s loss to the Yankees at Tropicana Field. He allowed a season-high six runs and 10 hits. The outing was his shortest of the season.
164: Career home runs for third baseman Evan Longoria, who broke the Rays’ franchise record in the category with a 400-foot, two-run shot to left field off Yankees right-hander Ivan Nova in Tampa Bay’s victory Saturday. Longoria passed former infielder Carlos Pena, who had 163 career home runs.
4-0: Record for right-hander Chris Archer against the Yankees in four career starts, after pitching 6 2/3 innings in the Rays’ victory Saturday. He has a 1.26 ERA over 28 2/3 innings in those starts.
"I like to believe this is a definite reboot kind of a game." — Maddon, after the Rays beat the Yankees 11-5 on Friday night at Tropicana Field. Tampa Bay had lost four consecutive games in which it was outscored a combined 32-7.
"Offensively, I felt good swinging at balls in the zone and attacking pitches I can handle. It was an awesome team win, top to bottom." — Catcher Ryan Hanigan, after the Rays’ victory over the Yankees on Saturday. He went 3 for 4 with two home runs and six RBI.
"We’ve been swinging the bats so well, and today, we were just minus. There’s really no solid explanation. I can’t stand here and say the Yankees pitched great. We just did not have a good offensive day." — Maddon, after the Rays’ 5-1 loss to the Yankees on Sunday. Tampa Bay was held to six hits after breaking through for 16 on Saturday.