Tampa Bay Rays at Toronto Blue Jays series primer
They pounded hits, the way they must if they'll become contenders. They churned out runs, the way that's necessary if they're going to survive with key pitchers gone.
Yes, it's just three games. Yes, it's a small sample size. But what the Tampa Bay Rays did in making mincemeat out of the Miami Marlins' pitching from Friday to Sunday was impressive.
That's a good way to begin the season's first road trip. Of course, the success must be sustained. Kevin Kiermaier's outburst is a pleasant surprise. So is David DeJesus' lively bat. The Rays played with more life than they showed throughout most of the opening series against the Baltimore Orioles at Tropicana Field, where Tampa Bay dropped two of three games. They placed a better foot forward in South Florida.
Now they must do the same north of the border.
The Rays will be re-introduced to life within the American League East. The Toronto Blue Jays will attempt to cool Tampa Bay's steamy hitting in what will be the season-opening series at Rogers Centre. Right-hander Jake Odorizzi will try to build on momentum gained from his previous start. Same with right-hander Chris Archer.
But if the Rays' hitting stays consistent, their pitchers can work more relaxed. With gains made in the Citrus Series, Tampa Bay lived the pattern of what must happen for winning to become a habit. Now it's the Rays' task to become disciplined enough to reproduce the effort time and time again.
Here's a look at the upcoming Rays-Blue Jays series ...
SCHEDULE AND PROBABLE PITCHERS
Kevin Kiermaier (Rays): He hit .381 (8 for 21) with two home runs and four RBI in six games from April 6-12. He had three multi-hit contests in the span, and his home-run total leads the Rays (four others have one). He has struck out just twice.
Jose Reyes (Blue Jays): He hit .417 (10 for 24) with three RBI in six games from April 6-12. He had three multi-hit games in the span, including two contests with three hits each, against the Orioles on April 10 and April 12. He was held hitless just once in the stretch, when he went 0 for 3 in a victory over the New York Yankees on April 6.
Steven Souza Jr. (Rays): He hit .125 (2 for 16) with eight strikeouts in six games from April 6-12. He went hitless in four contests in the span. His strikeout total is the largest on the team.
Russell Martin (Blue Jays): He hit .063 (1 for 16) with eight strikeouts in five games from April 6-12. His lone hit in the span came in the victory over the Yankees on April 6. He struck out at least once in each contest during the stretch.
6: RBI total for DeJesus, who leads the Rays in the category. Before the season, he was considered a prime candidate to be traded, because he didn't seem like a logical fit given Tampa Bay's makeup in the outfield. All six RBI came in the series against Miami.
2-10: Rays' record in opponents' home openers. Tampa Bay will play Toronto in its home opener, after the Blue Jays began the season with three games at Yankee Stadium and three games at Camden Yards.
8: Pitchers used by the Rays in their 10-9 loss to the Marlins in 10 innings on Friday night at Marlins Park. Right-hander Steve Geltz, normally a reliever, received his first start in the majors and pitched two innings and allowed one run and two hits.
''I don't know if I've been a part of something like this. It was just amazing. I would think these guys would be feeling pretty good about themselves carrying over to the next game.'' -- Kevin Cash to reporters, after the Rays overcame an 8-1 deficit to tie the score at eight, before tying the score at nine to force extra innings in the loss Friday. DeJesus had a team-high three RBI for Tampa Bay.
''When you're locating your fastball, it makes your secondary stuff twice as good.'' -- Archer to reporters, after he allowed just one hit and struck out five in seven innings in the Rays' 2-0 victory over the Marlins on Saturday at Marlins Park. Christian Yelich's double to left field in the bottom of the fourth inning was Miami's lone hit.
''Guys are not putting pressure on themselves. We're not trying to be the hero. We're just moving the line.'' -- DeJesus to reporters, after the Rays' 8-5 victory over the Marlins on Sunday at Marlins Park. Tampa Bay cracked 14 hits in the victory.
April 17-19 -- Yankees at Rays