Texas Rangers at Tampa Bay Rays series primer
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — A .500 record is a glass-half-full or glass-half-empty existence and, even this early, the Tampa Bay Rays should feel pumped. No reason for sweat. No reason to scramble.
Life is all right.
The two victories over the Toronto Blue Jays were breathe-easy affairs. Try a combined score of 16-4. The two losses: A combined tally of 7-2.
"I’m here to tell you, we played well," Rays manager Joe Maddon said Thursday, after his team’s 7-2 victory. "The hits fell in for us tonight. As long as you play good baseball and adhere to what you believe are the right things to do, you’re going to be OK."
The hitting was consistent, which is a good hint that runs will come in bunches. The Rays finished with 33 runs, which places them in a three-way tie for third place in the American League in the category, behind the Seattle Mariners’ 40 and the Chicago White Sox’s 35. Not a bad first stride to start this marathon.
Versatility? The Rays have it in their production. All players with at least seven at-bats earned a hit, except for catcher Jose Molina, who went 0 for 7 in two games. Seven players produced an RBI, led by Evan Longoria’s four.
Defense? The starts by right-hander Alex Cobb and left-hander Matt Moore left something to be desired, after allowing a combined six earned runs and 11 hits. But left-hander David Price and right-hander Chris Archer, fresh off signing his $25.5 million deal, were both solid and collected. Cobb, in particular, should find his form soon.
So it’s early, but a split against the Blue Jays is no reason to push the bright red panic button. Now come the Texas Rangers to Tropicana Field, a three-day stay that will include right-hander Yu Darvish’s season debut Sunday.
"The fact that we put ourselves in a 1-2 position in the fourth game, I’m ecstatic about 2-2," Maddon said. "Even though we did lose, we’ve been playing well the whole time. That’s what I look at. If you’re playing poorly and losing, that’s one thing. … We were playing well. We just weren’t getting hits."
Here’s a look at the upcoming Rays-Rangers series:
SCHEDULE AND PROBABLE PITCHERS
Leonys Martin (Texas Rangers): He went 5 for 11 with four RBI and two walks against the Philadelphia Phillies on Monday through Wednesday. He had a pair of multi-hit games in the series, with two hits each on Monday and Wednesday.
Evan Longoria (Tampa Bay Rays): He leads the Rays with four RBI, after going 6 for 15 with a home run in the series against Toronto. He earned a hit during each game in the four-game set, including a pair on Monday and Thursday.
Prince Fielder (Texas Rangers): He went 2 for 12 with three strikeouts in the series against the Phillies. He was held to a single hit on both Monday and Tuesday.
Yunel Escobar (Tampa Bay Rays): He went 2 for 13 against Toronto with five strikeouts. The strikeouts are tied for a team-worst total with Wil Myers.
163: Number of career home runs for Longoria after a three-run homer to left field in the Rays’ victory over the Blue Jays on Thursday. He’s tied with Carlos Pena for the most in franchise history. Longoria’s home run Thursday was his first of the season.
19-0-2: Series record for the Rays in the Blue Jays’ last 21 road sets with Tampa Bay. Toronto hasn’t won a road series with Tampa Bay since April 6-8, 2007. The Blue Jays’ victory Wednesday marked just their second consecutive victory over the Rays on the road since 2008.
18: Amount of runs the Rays produced in their series against Toronto. The total places them fourth in the American League, behind the Seattle Mariners (28), Chicago White Sox (21) and Minnesota Twins (19).
"It feels good to go out and get the ball rolling in the right direction." — Price after he allowed two runs, six hits and struck out six in a 9-2 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays on Monday. The performance took place before a crowd of 31,042, which was the Rays’ ninth consecutive sellout for a home opener.
"For the most part their offense was centered around one guy. He can do that kind of stuff." — Maddon after Blue Jays right-fielder Jose Bautista smacked two home runs in Toronto’s 3-0 victory Wednesday. It was Bautista’s 22nd multi-homer game.
"Having it or not having a contract or money, it didn’t affect me because it’s never been a thought in my mind when I was in between the lines." — Archer after he allowed two runs, four hits and struck out seven in six innings during the Rays’ victory Thursday. He pitched for the first time since signing an eight-year deal Wednesday worth a possible $43.75 million, with the first six years and $25.5 million guaranteed.
April 7-9 — Tampa Bay Rays at Kansas City Royals