Just when it looked like the Rays would start the second half with an all star hangover, Evan Longoria, Pat Burrell and company got the offense going in the right direction. After getting little to no support in most of his starts, James Shields spotted the Royals six runs by the third inning. Shields will be the first to admit he was just not good last night. Once again he had good control, but was lacking command and the Royals took advantage. Shields would be touched for seven earned runs on 11 hits and a walk while striking out just three in 5.1 innings. It was the fifth start this year in which Shields has given up at least 10 hits. The way the Rays season has gone it was only fitting that the offense finally decided to support Shields in arguably his worst start of the season.
Fresh off his all-star MVP award, Carl Crawford went 3-5 and stole his 45th base of the season. CC getting on base is so important as seen last night when he crossed home plate three times. Ben Zobrist continues to just hit adding another two base hits last night improving his season slash line to .300/.417/.596. B.J. Upton also hit another double last night, his 21st of the season. These three did a great job of setting the table for two right handed mashers, who haven't really mashed lately.
Since his torrid start in the early stages of the season, nagging injuries have cooled off Evan Longoria's production. First, he went into a June slump that coincided with his early June hamstring injury. Longoria started showing some signs of life in the last few games before the break, but suffered a finger infection during the break and his return for last night's game was questionable. What was not questionable was the performance he had on the field. Longo went 2-5, with three RBI and the go-ahead two run home run in the 8th inning off of Juan Cruz.
The anti-Longoria, Pat Burrell did not get off to a great start this year and we've been waiting and waiting for the right handed power bat to finally appear. Over the past 47 plate appearances, we have seen the Pat Burrell we all wanted. Of course it's a small sample size, but in the month of July, Burrell is hitting .256/.319/.512. Seven of his 11 hits this month have been of the extra base variety and he has driven in a team high eight RBI. All year I've heard the phrase "when Pat Burrell get's hot, he can really carry a team on his shoulders." Well if that is true, then we really need Burrell to carry us through this stretch of road games that could determine the direction the team goes come the 31st.
Bad start by Shields, however a great offensive comeback and great work out of the bullpen. I couldn't help but flash back to Ben Zobrist's late inning home run off of A.J. Burnett in the game after last year's all star break when Longoria crushed this ball into the left field stands last night; let's hope it has the same impact.
Scott Kazmir vs. Zack Grienke, next? Yessir.