While not quite as important as the games against the Red Sox, the series against Toronto presents the Rays with another test heading into September. If the first game is any indication, it shouldn't be much of a problem. The Rays beat the Blue Jays by the score of 6-2 last nightl; a rather easy victory from start to finish.
Two players really stepped up last night to propel the team to victory: Wade Davis and Carlos Pena. In his second start off of the disabled list Davis looked as smooth as he has all year. The rookie allowed six hits and two runs while striking out three and walking none in his 7.2 innings of work. Davis probably would have gone longer - he left having thrown just 91 pitches - if it still wasn't so soon after the DL. His stuff wasn't overpowering, as evidenced by the two total swinging strikes he registered, but his command was excellent. Of the 58 four seam fastballs Davis threw, 41 (70%) went for strikes. The Blue Jays don't walk much in general, but for Davis not to give up a single free pass is a signal of very good things. If the Rays make the playoffs Davis will not be starting any games, but having an arm like his coming out of the bullpen is a fantastic weapon to lean on. Hopefully he can continue his post injury success.
With Davis holding down the pitching end, Carlos Pena took it upon himself to lift the offense. With the Rays already leading 1-0 in the first inning Pena hit a sac fly that scored Carl Crawford. After an error by Aaron Hill allowed Crawford to reach safely, and an Evan Longoria single, Pena smashed an opposite field line drive home run to give the Rays a 5-1 lead. Longoria would drive in a run with a sac fly of his own in the ninth to push the Rays to six runs, but it was Pena who provided the muscle on the evening. Since coming off the DL August 16th Pena has improved his OPS nine points (.773 to .782) and has walked 12 times in those 13 games coming into last night. As with B.J. Upton, this offense is so much different when Pena is getting on base.
- If Carl Crawford busts it out of the gate on his first inning double, does that hit turn into a triple? It certainly looked as if he jogged out of the box. Later in the game he hit a ground ball to the second basemen and stopped running full speed about half way up the line. I'm not going to get on his case like many people do with Upton, but if the tables were turned there I'm guessing there would be more mention of the latter.
- The home attendance was less than 12,000, the smallest of the season. As disappointing as that is for us to see, it makes it worse when Carl Crawford says ""It was a big letdown. We came out all fired up and you see that, it’s really depressing." Joe Maddon added "There’s nothing we can do about that anymore, honestly. Whether it’s winning or losing or whatever, we can’t even be concerned about that. Of course it’s disappointing, but we do appreciate the group that did come out. It’s too bad because you’re missing really good baseball." Personally I don't care about the attendance numbers as long as the team keeps on winning games this season.