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Rays Keep On Rolling, Make Short Work of Royals

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Another day, another blow-out. Dear god, does this team ever stop?

I feel bad for Luke Hochevar. I really do. He'll forever be known as the player drafted ahead of Evan Longoria and Tim Lincecum (which the announcers were sure to point out last night), and he's struggled to put things together for a while now. He'd looked good in his first couple starts this year, posting a respectable 3.51 FIP, 1.80 K/BB, and 51.9% GB%, but then he had to come to Tampa and get steamrolled. And it was a pretty thorough thrashing - 2.2 IP, 11 H, 9 ER, 2 BB, 1 K. Ouch. Just ouch.

It all started in the bottom of the second inning. The Rays scored five times in the bottom of the fifth and then four more runs in the bottom of the third, driving Hochevar to the showers early. If you want the exact break-down of hits and RBIs, check out the GameDay blow-by-blow - there's simply too much to mention it all. Almost everyone on the Rays got into the action last night, though. Jason Bartlett and Carl Crawford had back-to-back triples in the second inning, while Crawford went 4-5 on the evening and was a home run short of a cycle.  I've pointed it out before, but Carl Crawford has been on fire this season. To go along with his gold-glove defense, his Weighted On-base Average (wOBA) is a robust .381 and he's already accrued 1.2 WAR. He's one heck of a player.

More on the game after the jump.

Outside of Crawford, the other big offensive stars came at the bottom of the line-up. Pat Burrell continues to perform in a non-replacement-level sort of way, hitting a double and a single in five at bats and scoring twice. (I absolutely love watching him run; you can just see how much effort he needs to put into staying upright. Oh, and the gratuitous slide at home plate was a nice touch.) And then there's the Wonder Boys, John Jaso and Reid Brignac. Jaso had a single and three walks in his five plate appearances, making his season BB/K ratio 9:1 and putting him halfway to matching Dioner Navarro's 2009 walk total. Reid Brignac made a couple nice plays in the field, flashing some range, and also had two hits and three RBIs. All in all, it was quite the evening for the Rays' offense.

As for the Rays' pitchers, Matt Garza was once again in ace form. After experiencing a slightly decreased velocity in his previous start, Garza's fastballs sat around 93-94 MPH the entire game, with its max speed clocking in at 95.2 MPH. He was getting excellent movement on all of his breaking pitches, and his slider was exceptionally sharp last night. Garza recorded a total of 11 swinging strikes last night (good for an 11.3% SwgStr%): four on his slider, two on his curve, and five on his four-seam fastball. He had all of his pitches working for him and the Royals are a very free-swinging bunch, allowing Garza to rack up nine strikeouts in just six innings of work.

After Garza left the game, we got our first look at Joaquin Benoit as a Ray - and I must say, he passed with flying colors. He threw two pitches, a four-seam fastball and a change-up, with his fastball averaging 94 MPH (touching 95 on occasion) and his change-up averaging 83 MPH. Both pitches had good movement and although Benoit only threw 21 pitches, he was able to record three swinging strikes (all on fastballs). As you can see from this chart, Benoit threw his fastball high in the zone, trying to blow it by hitters or induce pop-ups, while he worked his change-up low:

Benoit_medium

Benoit has always been a fly ball pitcher (career 45.1%) so this is probably how he'll continue to attack hitters: high heat and low change ups, attempting to keep the hitter off balance just enough to get the fastball by him. Thankfully the Rays have a solid outfield defense, so lots of fly balls shouldn't cause too much trouble for Benoit.

The Rays are now 17-5, 2.5 games up on the Yankees and 6.0 games up on the Red Sox. Life is good.