Concern should remain. The Tampa Bay Rays, in their current form, are a vulnerable team. It’s hard to find consistency anywhere you look: starting pitching, defense, the bullpen. Not much has gone right for them in May. They were seven games below .500 this late in a season for the first time since 2007 after a 12-5 loss to the Seattle Mariners on Monday at Safeco Field.
Clearly, this wasn’t the start manager Joe Maddon had in mind when he pushed the Rays to "eat last" in spring.
Still, there were two things to like from their recent stop in the Pacific Northwest. One, left-hander David Price pitched like an ace again. Mostly, he was so-so throughout the past month. Before Tuesday’s complete-game victory, he had allowed at least two earned runs and six hits in five starts since April 17. The Rays needed more.
Then right-hander Jake Odorizzi showed his best command of the season. He was solid in striking out seven and allowing just one hit in six innings in the victory Wednesday. His no-hit bid wasn’t dashed until James Jones smacked a two-out single to left field in the sixth. That’s the Odorizzi who earned the fifth-starter job in spring training.
"If I would have gotten through that sixth inning, there are still nine outs to go," Odorizzi told reporters in Seattle. "That’s a lot of outs. I don’t think you really think about it until it’s like the eighth inning and you have an out or two."
That’s right. A Rays pitcher talked about the prospects of a no-hit bid. Considering how poor everything has gone for Tampa Bay of late, especially the starting pitching, those words are a welcomed reprieve from the norm. The bullpen needs a chance to exhale.
So the narrative around the Rays has improved a bit after their hapless 1-5 homestand. Their series victory in Seattle marked their first since winning two of three games over the New York Yankees from May 2-4. They stand at 18-23, a manageable 3 1/2 games behind the Baltimore Orioles in the American League East. Yes, the Rays are vulnerable, but there’s a lot of baseball left to play.
Credit the hippie vibes. Give a hat-tip to the old-school cologne and aftershaves. Whatever the reason, Price and Odorizzi gave the Rays some decent news for a change. Now it’s on to southern California, where Tampa Bay will try to build on the upswing in a four-game series against the Los Angeles Angels.
Here’s a look at the upcoming Rays-Angels series:
SCHEDULE AND PROBABLE PITCHERS
David DeJesus (Rays): He hit .393 (11 for 28) with one home run and five RBI in seven games from May 8-14. He had a nine-game hitting streak from May 3-13. He has hit .272 with four home runs and 14 RBI this season.
Erick Aybar (Angels): He hit .348 (8 for 23) with one RBI and two strikeouts in five games from May 9-14. He had at least one hit in each game during the span. He has hit .277 with two home runs and 19 RBI this season.
Desmond Jennings (Rays): He hit .143 (3 for 21) with five strikeouts in six games from May 8-14. He went hitless in three games during the span. He has hit .250 with four home runs and 10 RBI this season.
Albert Pujols (Angels): He hit .115 (3 for 26) with three strikeouts in six games from May 9-14. He went hitless in three games from May 11-13. He has hit .264 with 10 home runs and 26 RBI this season.
9: Runs allowed (five earned) in 6 2/3 innings by left-hander Cesar Ramos in the Rays’ 12-5 loss to the Mariners on Monday at Safeco Field. He had allowed a combined nine runs in 10 previous appearances this season.
0: Times Price had worn high socks in the majors before sporting the look in a 2-1 complete-game victory over the Mariners on Tuesday at Safeco Field. The last time he did so was for Triple-A Durham in 2009.
1: Hit allowed by Odorizzi in six innings during the Rays’ 2-0 victory over the Mariners on Wednesday at Safeco Field. He had allowed no fewer than five in his six previous starts.
"We got ambushed. We just sashayed into the canyon, and they were firing from both sides." — Maddon after the Rays’ loss Monday. Tampa Bay committed four errors in the first two innings.
"We needed a win, period, whether it was a blowout or a game like that."— Price after he allowed one run and six hits with 12 strikeouts in the Rays’ victory Tuesday. It was Price’s second complete game of the year (first was a victory over the Minnesota Twins on April 22 at Tropicana Field).
"We’re getting different opinions. I think a lot of it has to do with how sore he is tomorrow, how swollen and sore. That could indicate DL. That could indicate maybe not." — Maddon after second baseman Ben Zobrist dislocated his left thumb in the top of the fifth inning of the Rays’ victory Wednesday. Zobrist slid headfirst into second base but made awkward contact with the bag. Zobrist said it’s unlikely he’ll return to the field within a week.