Piggybacking off what Ian said yesterday in the lede for his recap, this Rays team is so incredibly backwards from what we're used to watching. After the past few season, I've grown accustomed to watching Rays teams that excelled at -- as cliche as it is to say -- the fundamentals. They pitched well and played spectacular defense, trusting on their run prevention skills to keep games close enough for their offense to win. Especially last season, when Longoria missed so much of the season, the Rays had to be good at run prevention or else they stood no shot at winning.
This year, though? It's been Bizarro Rays Baseball. Sure, we got to gripe about the offense for the first few weeks of the season like normal, but at this point, if anyone claims the Rays have an anemic offense, they're playing fast and loose with the truth. Because holy crap, this is ridiculous:
Yup, that's right: coming into today, the Rays had the second best offense in all of baseball. That's crazy talk. After losing B.J. Upton this offseason, nobody expected the Rays offense to be this good right now. But Evan Longoria is on fire, James Loney has rediscovered the ol' Kotchman magic, Kelly Johnson is crushing the ball, and even Luke Scott has been hitting well of late. It's surreal.
Yet despite the offense churning on all cylinders, the Rays are still making every game close due to uncharacteristic poor pitching. Take this evening's game for example.
Roberto Hernandez had been looking so good coming into tonight's game. His ERA was still in the mid-4s, but he was striking out hitters, keeping the ball on the ground, and providing the Rays with valuable innings by working a full six innings in all but one of his starts. He wasn't fooling anyone tonight, though, as the Orioles jumped all over him in the early innings. Hernandez ended up leaving after not being able to get an out in the third inning, after having allowed eight hits (including two home runs) and five runs. He kept the ball down in the zone, but it seemed like he got too much of the plate with many of them and the Orioles didn't let him escape.
The Rays scored four runs on Jair Jurrjens to chase him out of the game after five innings -- three of those runs were driven in by Matt Joyce, on a homer and a double -- but they still trailed 6-4 going into the top of the ninth inning. Jim Johnson has been pretty much automatic for the Orioles over the last few seasons, so the Rays seemed to have squandered another game due to poor pitching.
...And yet, the Rays found a way. Kelly Johnson brought the game to within one run by hitting a solo home run, and then the Rays started a congoline around the basepaths. By the time the full damage was done, the Rays had scored six runs off a total of five hits and four walks. Josh Lueke closed out the game in the bottom of the ninth, and that was that.
This offensive explosion most likely will not last. The Rays' offense is firing on all cylinders now, and we've all seen what it can do when things aren't running along optimally. At some point, the offense will cool down and they will have to go back to winning games through pitching and defense...but today was not that day. It'd be great if the Rays could get their pitching to turn things around, but for now, let's just be thankful the Rays have -- for the moment at least -- one of the best offenses in the majors.
- While I sung the praises of the Rays' offense up above, Alex Torres was one of the main heroes from today. Going into the fifth inning, the game seemed to be on the verge of slipping away from the Rays. They were down 6-4 and Cesar Ramos hadn't been able to contain the Orioles either, so Joe Maddon called in Torres to start the fifth inning. Torres ended up being spectacular; he pitched four shutout innings without allowing a hit or a run, keeping the Rays in the game and in the position to come back in the ninth. Talk about clutch.
- Matt Joyce was the big offensive star of the game for the Rays, going three for five with a home run, two doubles, and five runs batted in. Love me some MOM.
- The Rays have officially announced that Jake Odorizzi will be starting Monday night's game against the Blue Jays. This move also wasn't contingent on Torres pitching four innings in relief tonight, as Odorizzi arrived in Baltimore before tonight's game ended.