Remember when the Rays started the season 1-8 and so many people were panicking? Remember all of the articles written about how they had lost too many players this off season and might end up in last place? Yeah, that was fun.
The Rays defeated the White Sox by a score of 4-1 Wednesday night to move their record to an even 9-9. Winning eight of your last nine games tends to help things.
One of the biggest reasons the Rays have had so much success over the past nine games has been the work of the starting rotation. Wade Davis' seven strong innings marked the eighth game in a row a Rays starter had gone at least that many innings. We all thought the strong suit of this team would be it's rotation, so seeing that coming to fruition lately has been fantastic to watch.
As for Davis, his new philosophy of throwing softer and pitching more to contact worked once again, but I'm still weary on how long this will last. On the night, Davis' fastball averaged 90.74mph, a good 2mph slower than his average last season. Even with the slower velocity he was able to throw it for a strike 75% of the time tonight. His control has been excellent -- he allowed his first home run of the season tonight -- which has provided him the ability to use the diminished fastball effectively. On the other hand, the Rays have been making excellent defensive plays behind him to save some hits. If Davis really has figured out something that will help improve his game, then I'm behind it 100%, but I'd like to wait until we get a greater sample to make any definitive statements.
The offense was carried by Matt Joyce, Casey Kotchman, and John Jaso. Let's tackle them one at a time
- After going 2-3 on the night, Joyce is now 16 for his last 33 with six doubles. The home runs haven't come yet, but when you're spraying line drives all over the field like he is, they're bound to come eventually. When Longoria comes back, I have a hard time seeing how anyone else can hit in the three hole besides Joyce. He also made a fantastic leaping catch against the wall to rob Juan Pierre of extra bases and at least one RBI.
- After ribbing Kotchman a bit for his two infield singles last night, we have to give credit where credit is due; he had a single and an RBI double tonight that were not cheap in the least. Keep hitting the ball in the air and we're cool, okay Kotchman?
- The game was essentially won in the second inning when Jaso launched a mistake by Humber into the last row of seats in right field. It gave the Rays a 2-0 lead and they never looked back. Since he's not known for having much power, that ball had to be the farthest of Jaso's career. Pierzynski set up outside, but Humber yanked it right over the inside of the plate. You can't miss that bad with a 91mph fastball to a major league hitter.
Ten days ago Gavin Floyd dominated the Rays, throwing 8 innings and striking out 9. In that same game, Jeff Niemann lasted only 2.2 innings and allowed five hits and three earned runs. Lets hope fortunes are reversed tomorrow for the Big Nyquil.