Tampa Bay Rays at Detroit Tigers series primer
JUL 03, 2014 12:00p ET
This is more like it.
Where was this team for most of the season's first half? Where was the confident, complete play that has marked the Tampa Bay Rays' surge on this road trip? Where was the strong pitching, the punch-back offense, the fight that resembles more American League contender than the worst team in the majors?
Better late than never.
Now, the Rays should make greed their goal. They've won six of seven games since embarking on a 10-day, 11-contest road trip that began June 27. They took three of four against the Baltimore Orioles. They thumped the New York Yankees for three consecutive days. Now it's on to Detroit, where the AL Central-leading Tigers await for a holiday weekend four-game series.
"We're getting a different bus driver on a daily basis, that's kind of neat," Rays manager Joe Maddon told reporters Wednesday. "That's who we have to be. We're not necessarily built around one guy. We're built as group. Everybody's got to do their job."
The best development of the Rays' rise: Their recovery has become collective. Throughout most of the season's opening months, Tampa Bay's pattern was mostly the same: If pitching was effective, then hitting was off; if hitting heated up, then pitching turned cold. Rare was the day when everything aligned in a pleasing way.
Now all elements have started to simmer together.
Of course, baseball is a tricky game. Sweet feelings can sour within hours or one series. This momentum remains fragile. But a sprint toward the All-Star break, which begins July 14, can change the Rays' narrative.
Finally, they have begun to find their way.
Here's a look at the upcoming Rays-Tigers series ...
SCHEDULE AND PROBABLE PITCHERS
July 3 (Sun Sports -- pregame coverage begins at 6:30 p.m.)
July 4 (Sun Sports -- pregame coverage begins at 6:30 p.m.)
Alex Cobb (3-6, 4.20 ERA) vs. Drew Smyly (4-7, 3.57 ERA)
July 5 (Sun Sports -- pregame coverage begins at 3:30 p.m.)
Chris Archer (4-5, 3.24 ERA) vs. Anibal Sanchez (5-2, 2.63 ERA)
July 6 (ESPN -- first pitch is 8 p.m.)
Logan Forsythe (Rays): He hit .458 (11 for 24) with two home runs and six RBI in six games from June 27-July 2. He had five multi-hit games in the span, including a 3 for 3 day with one home run and two RBI in a victory over the Orioles on June 28. He has hit .253 with two home runs and 11 RBI this season.
Ian Kinsler (Tigers): He hit .407 (11 for 27) with one home run and five RBI in seven games from June 26-July 2. He had four multi-hit games in the span, including a 3 for 5 day in a loss to the Houston Astros on June 27. He has hit .308 with 10 home runs and 43 RBI this season.
James Loney (Rays): He hit .194 (6 for 31) with six strikeouts in seven games from June 27-July 2. He went hitless in two contests in the span. He has hit .280 with five home runs and 43 RBI this season.
Austin Jackson (Tigers): He hit .160 (4 for 25) with seven strikeouts in seven games from June 26-July 2. He went hitless in five contests in the span. He has hit .245 with three home runs and 23 RBI this season.
June 4: Starting date that the Rays held the title as the majors' worst team, before beating the Yankees 4-3 in 12 innings on Monday at Yankee Stadium. Tampa Bay blew a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the ninth inning but rallied with an RBI single from Forsythe in the 12th.
9: Strikeouts for left-hander David Price in the Rays' 2-1 victory over the Yankees on Tuesday at Yankee Stadium. He had struck out at least 10 in five consecutive starts before then.
5: Length of the Rays' winning streak, a season high, after a 6-3 victory over the Yankees on Wednesday at Yankee Stadium. Their previous longest winning streak had been four games from May 22-25.
"Nobody quit. To lose a game like this would have been really hard to walk in here. It's very difficult, and you don't know the negative complementary impacts it's going to have." -- Maddon, after the Rays' victory Monday. Home runs from Kevin Kiermaier and Matt Joyce bolstered Tampa Bay's offense in the win.
"I just play ball. That's my job." -- Price, after earning his third victory in four starts Tuesday. He remains a subject of trade speculation before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.
"As a team we're starting to flow better, guys are starting to understand each other better." -- Shortstop Sean Rodriguez, after he went 2 for 4 with three RBI in the Rays' victory Wednesday. He hit a 445-foot, go-ahead home run in the sixth inning.
July 7-9 -- Royals at Rays