It's amazing to see how vast the chasm is between the best and the worst. The Rays have experienced both ends of that spectrum the past two days in the Yankees and Orioles. When facing the Yankees there is a different feel to the games, with no lead ever seeming safe. You expect the Rays to take one game of the series; anything more than that seems like found money. The feeling may as well be the polar opposite when it comes to the Orioles. You fully expect the Rays to sweep any series they play; a loss seemingly being a cruel joke played by the official scorer.
I don't say this to belittle the Orioles. I know many Orioles fans and one of the better team specific sabermetric blogs, Camden Crazies, is dedicated to the O's. The Rays were in the Orioles' spot not too long ago, so I have sympathy. That's why it still feels strange to be in the position of bully. A part of me will never get used to the fact that the Rays are one of the top teams in baseball, feasting on bottom dwellers like the Orioles. But that's exactly what they are, and that's exactly what they did tonight.
After leaving New York disappointed after winning only one game while blowing leads in two others, the Orioles were the perfect cure all for the Rays. The offense torched Baltimore starter Chris Tillman. The young right hander failed to get out of the third inning, finishing with a line of 2.2IP, 7H, 8ER, 4BB, and 2K. The Rays would send 10 men to the plate that inning, scoring seven runs with nary a homer. No one offensive player stood out over the rest. It was the definition of a team effort. The only star for either team on the night was on the mound for the Rays.
In his last two starts, Wade Davis has shown flashes of why the organization has thus far been reluctant to send him down. Granted, those starts were against the Indians and Orioles so I suppose a grain of salt needs to be taken. Tonight, Davis was simply on point, going eight innings while giving up one run on seven hits. He was so good that he even seduced R.J. Anderson to quip that "Evidently Davis and Hellickson have swapped control for a night" after Hellickson walked five in three innings, while Davis gave just one free pass in his eight frames.+
His fastball was very effective, registering a 69% strike rate. More impressive than the fastball was the curve which he threw 16 times for 13 strikes. On the night, Davis threw 28 pitches with a two strike count. Instead of relying heavily on his fastball - which he's done all season - he mixed it up nicely in throwing 10 fastball, 10 sliders, 5 curveballs, and 3 changeups. Progress. Eight innings and one walk isn't something you should expect from Davis every time out. That's obvious. But if he limits his mistakes and pitches as smartly as he did tonight, he should make it through the end of the season in the rotation.