ST. PETERSBURG, FL - AUGUST 22: Pitcher Fernando Rodney #56 of the Tampa Bay Rays looks for a popped up hit against the Kansas City Royals August 22, 2012 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida. Rodney pitched in relief and saved the game. The Rays won 5 - 3. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
As well as the Rays have been playing they couldn't drop a home series to the Royals, right? Right. James Shields earned his twelfth win of the season, pitching seven and two-thirds innings, allowing three earned runs and striking out seven while walking just one. It was his fifth consecutive strong start as he continues to bounce back nicely from the rough patch he hit in the middle of the season. As usual his best weapon on the afternoon was his changeup, throwing it for a strike 73% of the time and getting a 20% whiff rate.
It's been said before, but if the Rays offense can get four runs every game the team is almost unbeatable with the way the pitching has performed. The last time the team lost while allowing more than four runs? July 26th. The last time they lost when scoring more than four runs? July 18th. Today they scored five and allowed three in the victory. Perfect.
The offensive performance was a stark contrast from last night when they were shutout on just two hits. The score could have been a lot worse had the team hit with runners in scoring position. They were just 1/13 in such situations. The only inning in which they didn't at least have a man on second was the 8th. Five separate players left three men on base. The biggest hit of the game may have been Jose Lobaton's home run to right-center field. The Royals had just scored two in the top of the frame to get within one. The homer, his second of the season, gave Fernando Rodney a little more breathing room in the ninth.
After the game Joe Maddon explained that Evan Longoria would play the field tomorrow night, DH Friday and play the field again Saturday. Longoria said he feels he can play every day at third base but the Rays will surely be cautions.
Now it's Oakland's turn at the Trop. They're 6-4 in their last 10 games but do not pitch nearly as well on the road as they do at home. Their 4.21 road FIP is 19th in baseball compared to 3.64 (10th) at home. Hopefully the Rays bats can keep up the August hot streak and further distance themselves from the A's in the wild card race.