Less than 24 hours after breaking the 18-game Cleveland curse, the Rays started another streak in Cleveland - a winning streak. Behind the bat of Reid Brignac and a solid, not spectacular, performance from Wade Davis, the Rays complete the meatloaf (winning 2 out of 3 games) of the Indians while clinching a winning three-city, nine-game road trip (5-4).
Like David Price on Saturday night, Davis' day got off to a wild start. He battled with command in the first inning - throwing 20 pitches total including 12 strikes. He allowed a lead-off walk to Michael Brantley to come around and score the game's first run.
From there, Davis teetered on the brink of disaster, but tip-toed around the danger. He allowed another run in the second after the first two men reached on singles. The first two Indians reached base again in the fourth inning, but this time Davis escaped without allowing a run to score.
The Rays' fifth starter was lifted after 6.1 innings and 100 pitches. He threw 60 strikes - including eight of the swinging variety. Davis fed the Indians a hearty fastball diet with 74 combined heaters. He had a heavy two-seamer going as 13 of the 21 balls put in play were on the ground - 10 of them outs. He walked just one batter, and has just six walks in his last 21.1 innings.
I don't know if the gun is a bit juiced in Cleveland, but Davis was 93-94 mph on average and topped out at 96.8. He's not the Rays' ace, and he has faced some weaker competition recently; however, Davis looks he back to being an efficient fifth starter which is all we really need from him at this stage in his career.
On the offensive side, Reid "Bench Me Now" Brignac provided the Rays with all the runs they would need this afternoon. Brignac's two-out, three-run homer in the second inning put the Rays up for good. The team would tact on another run on a Carl Crawford sac-fly in the fifth inning.
Over the past 30 days, Brignac is slugging over .500 while his OPS is north of .850. If he sits against a right-handed pitcher, then Joe Maddon is not fielding his best lineup on that day.
Speaking of handedness, the Rays loaded the lineup with seven lefties (Ben Zobrist and Willy Aybar included) against righty Justin Masterson. It worked well enough as the Rays scored four runs on five hits and two walks off the sinker-baller. The Rays stranded just three runners in this game, but also ran themselves into three outs on the bases.
After the starter pitchers were done, the Rays bullpen matched zeros with the bullpen of the Indians. The Rays trio of relief aces: Joaquin Benoit, Grant Balfour, and Rafael Soriano combined for 2.2 innings of scoreless relief. Perhaps the two biggest outs came from Benoit, who retired Shin-Soo Choo and Carlos Santana in the seventh inning with two runners aboard. In the ninth, Soriano would face Santana as the tying run in the game, but got the phenom to flyout on one pitch.
Enjoy this victory as the Rays head home to start their longest home stand of the season. They will face three playoff-caliber teams starting with the Detroit Tigers tomorrow. Good luck fellas.