For me, one of the most frustrating things about last season was that the Rays seemed to play down to whatever team they were facing. The team seemed bipolar at times; they could look brilliant in a sweep of the Red Sox in one series, yet be unable to muster any offense in the next series and lose to the Royals. The team was good, no doubt about that, but they had a big problem winning the easy games. Blame it on bad luck, too much pressure, a mental lapse, whatever.
I don't claim to know exactly why the Rays were so inconsistent last season, but thankfully that issue hasn't carried over into this season. The Rays just finished this short homestand with a 4-1 record, taking two of three from the Mariners and sweeping the Indians in two games.Considering these two teams currently have winning percentages hovering around 40%, the Rays took advantage and didn't let the easy wins slip through their fingers. Moan if you want about the Rays' lack of offense, but in the end they found enough runs to win four out of five games. Our offense played over its head for the first month of the season, so we shouldn't be freaking out if they're coming back to earth. That said, there are some legitimate question marks and I would love to see Pena and Zobrist get hot, but as long as the Rays are picking up wins, I'm willing to be patient with the offense and wait for some regression.
This win today was especially important considering that the Rays face Boston and New York during these next two weeks. No matter what happens in those upcoming games, though, the Rays have given themselves some breathing room by stashing as many wins as possible against weaker opponents. While the Rays were playing with their backs against the wall last year, now they can relax and be confident against the Yanks and Sox.
Anyhoo, on to the game. After throwing over 100 pitches in each of his last three starts, David Price was on the closest thing the Rays have to a pitch count limit. Maddon lifted Price after 97 pitches, but Price showed no ill signs from his previous starts, going six innings and striking out five batters. Although his control wasn't the sharpest (3 BB), his stuff was rather filthy...
Price generated at least one swinging strike on each of his five pitches, giving him an overall 9.4% SwgStr%. He relied primarily on his spike curve and two fastballs, throwing them the majority of the time, but he also mixed in a small number of change-ups (6 pitches) and sliders (5). His pitches had great speed differences (fastball average- 94.5 MPH; curveball - 75.7 MPH; slider - 85.5 MPH) and he didn't lose any velocity as the game progressed. While a few less walks or hits would have made the night extra amazing, I can't help but be really impressed with Price. His stuff is incredible and if he keeps mixing his pitches well, he's going to have a monster year.
Our starting line-up looked decidedly less impressive without Crawford hitting in the two-hole. The Rays only had two batters with averages above .250, which says a bit about the Rays' line-up and a bit about the uselessness of batting average. Despite this, though, they managed to score six runs thanks primarily to Longoria, who was two for three with a double and triple. Pena's bat showed some signs of life, getting two two hits to the opposite field. Also, Upton collected only one hit on the night, but he hit the ball very hard in every at bat. He hit at least two deep drives to the outfield that were tracked down, so his swing looked good despite the lack of results.
Thanks for the wins, Indians - now we're off to New York. Let's hope the offense keeps the runs coming, since we're going to need lots of them.