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Monday Morning Rays Wrap Up: Still in First Place

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.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Getty Images

The Rays end the week with a record of 23-17 and maintain a 2-game lead over the New York Yankees for first place in the AL East. The Rays finished the week with a 3-3 record, not bad considering two of the games were played with B.J. Upton serving his two game suspension and two of the games were started by Andy Sonnanstine. The Rays bullpen will receive a boost with the return of  J.P. Howell on Wednesday and additional roster moves may be made to give Joe Maddon a little more flexibility on the bench. Entering the week the standings in the AL East are very tight with the Rays leading the Yankees by 2 games, the Red Sox and Blue Jays by 3 games, and Baltimore by 3.5 games and the Rays have 4 games between the Yankees and Blue Jays.

This Weeks Notes & Thoughts:

  • The Rays, despite a deflating weekend at home, are still in first place and have won 8 of their last 10 series.
  • Entering Sunday's games, several Rays hitters excelled during the week. Ben Zobrist (.333/.500/.600), Matt Joyce (.412/.500/1.000), Evan Longoria (.263/.364/.579), and B.J. Upton (.333/.333/.500).
  • Matt Joyce ended the week with 4 home runs and 6 RBI. Will Joe Maddon let him start against Ricky Romero or Jo-Jo Reyes in Toronto on Wednesday and Thursday?
  • David Price and James Shields continue to be dominant at the front of the rotation. 
  • James Shields has picked off 5 runners this year to lead the AL and the Rays have already picked off more runners this year than all of last year. A good look at how the pickup move may help in reducing the oppositions running game was detailed by Jason Collette in "Yet Another Way."
  • Jeremy Hellickson looks to continue to be a solid number three. In his last three starts he has a 3-0 record with a 1.33 ERA and has given the Rays 20.1 innings pitched.
  • Even with an impressive series in Cleveland, Sam Fuld had another disappointing week. Entering Sunday's game (he ended Sunday going 0-4) he was hitting .227/.261/.273 for the week. In the month of May, Fuld has drawn only 1 walk in 55 plate appearances.  How much longer can Joe Maddon continue to hit Sam Fuld in the leadoff spot if he continues to struggle both with the bat and is unable to draw walks?
  • Dan Johnson received only 5 plate appearances this week (mostly due to facing all right handed pitchers) and went hitless with a strikeout. I don't know how Joe Maddon is going to find spots to get Johnson's bat going, but continuing to have him on the roster seems to be hurting the flexibility of the Rays bench. Maddon may be able to give Johnson back to back starts in Toronto against left handers Ricky Romero and Jo-Jo Reyes mid-week. Will the Rays make a move with Dan Johnson and try to get him to Durham for everyday at bats? Would he report if he went unclaimed? Who would replace him on the roster? (Very good discussion in the PTBNL-13).
  • Reid Brignac continues to struggle with only 2 hits in 15 at-bats during the week (.133 average). His season has been a disappointment to date (.185/.219/.196 in 97 PA). Could Elliot Johnson and Sean Rodriguez man the shortstop position while Reid Brignac heads to Durham to get his swing worked out over the course of two-weeks or is he good enough defensively to wait on his on bat at the major league level? 
  • John Jaso also continues to struggle with 1 hit in 12 at-bats during the week (0.083 average). Like Brignac, Jaso is undergoing the sophomore jinx (.221/.286/.377 in 87 PA). Equally disturbing for Jaso has been his inability to block balls in the dirt. In order to get Jaso going with the bat, should Joe Maddon re-insert him in the leadoff spot for a few games while dropping Sam Fuld to the bottom of the order? 
  • J.P. Howell will be returning this week and the most likely candidate to be sent to down is  Rob Delaney
  • Will Joe Maddon stick with Andy Sonnanstine for his Friday start or will Maddon turn to Alex Cobb to make the start.  If the decision to start Cobb is made, will the Rays send Sonnanstine down today and call up an extra position player until Friday, if so, who may get the call up?

Tuesday's game versus the Indians at Progressive Field was going to be a committee effort as Andy Sonnanstine was making his first start of the season and was on a 70 pitch count.  Sonnanstine had control problems, some due to a very small strike zone, and walked 5 in only 3.1 innings.  Rays pitching gave the Indians ample opportunities to put the game out of reach (including 11 walks) but the Indians were unable to capitalize until the 9th inning. Joel Peralta walked Shin-Soo Choo to to lead off the ninth and Carlos Santana singled to put runners at first and third. Maddon intentionally walked Travis Hafner to load the bases before heading to the mound to bring in Kyle Farnsworth.  Maddon also replaced Sam Fuld with Elliot Johnson and brought him into the infield to give the Rays a 5-man infield. Orlando Cabrera grounded out sharply to shortstop Elliot Johnson who threw home for the first out of the inning.  Kyle Farnsworth issued the Rays 11th walk of the game to Micheal Brantley to allow the winning run to score.  The loss ended the Rays 8-game road winning streak and extended the Indians home winning streak to 13 games.

Wednesday's game featured David Price versus Carlos Carrasco. David Price was the story of the game, going 8 innings giving up 2 runs on 5 hits while striking out 7 an walking none.  The Rays offense provided more than enough runs as Sam Fuld had one of his better games in a number of weeks going 3-4 with a walk and a stolen base, B.J. Upton drove in two runs, and Ben Zobrist and Matt Joyce both hit home runs as the Rays won 8-2 and ended Cleveland home winning streak.

Thursday's afternoon's game featured James Shields (winless in 7 career starts vs Cleveland) versus Justin Masterson. The Rays lineup, stacked with left handed bats was able to get to Justin Masterson who was 5-0 with a 2.11 ERA entering the game. The Rays scored 4 runs in the second inning, including an extra base hit by Reid Brignac, which accounted for two of the Rays runs.  It was Brignac's first extra base hit in 104 plate appearances which set a Rays team record. The Rays ended up getting 11 hits (9 singles) and 7 walks on their way to defeating the Indians 7-4 and finish with a series win in Cleveland and a 5-1 road trip.  Shields earned the victory going 7 innings, giving up 2 runs, while striking out 7 and walking 1. Shields was also able to help himself by picking off two runners to give him a share of the league lead at 5..

The Rays returned home for Friday's game against the Baltimore Orioles. The pitching matchup had Jeremy Hellickson against Jeremy Guthrie. The Rays offense handed Hellickson a 2-0 lead thanks to a Matt Joyce 2-run home run in the second inning which is all the runs that Hellickson needed. Hellickson thew his first professional complete game shutout. He threw 120 pitches, gave up 4 hits, struck out 3, and walked 1. Johnny Damon hit a solo home run in the bottom of the eighth for the Rays 3rd run as the Rays won 3-0.

Saturday's game featured Wade Davis vs Brad Bergersen. The numbers before the game suggested that the Rays would be in a favorable matchup as Brad Bergersen had a lifetime record of 0-5 with a 9.13 career record versus the Rays while Davis sported a 4-2 record with a 3.09 ERA against the Orioles. Unfortunately for the Rays, Bergersen must of been enamored with Jeremy Hellickson's effort on Friday evening as he went out and threw a 4-hit complete game shutout as the Orioles won 6-0.

Sunday's game once again had Andy Sonnanstine making a start, this time on a 90 pitch count, against Jake Arrieta. Sonnanstine did not look sharp in his 5 innings of work, giving up 4 runs, 8 hits, striking out 2, and walking 0.  He departed the game trailing 4-2 and Rob Delaney took over in the sixth.  Delaney  loaded the bases on a leadoff walk to Adam Jones, an intentional walk to Matt Wieters, and a walk to Mark Reynolds prior to Joe Maddon calling on Cesar Ramos to face J.J. Hardy who promptly hit a grand slam to give the Orioles an 8-2 lead on their way to a 9-3 victory and a series win over the Rays. 

The Rays will face the New York Yankees at home Monday and Tuesday. David Price will face A.J. Burnett on Monday and James Shields will face Ivan Nova on Tuesday. The Rays will head to Toronto for a two game series. Jeremy Hellickson will go up against Ricky Romero on Wednesday and Wade Davis will take on Jo-Jo Reyes on Thursday. The Rays will take on the Florida Marlins over the weekend in Miami. Andy Sonnanstine/Alex Cobb will match up against Javier Vazquez on Friday evening, David Price will take on Josh Johnson on Saturday, and James Shields will take on Ricky Nolasco on Sunday. 

SF1 has had many contrary opinions over the course of this season, so let's see what he has to say about the team moving forward.

What started out so good, ended on a sour note. A 3-3 week is not the end of the world, but when two of the losses come at the hands of the Orioles at home and being outscored in those games 15-3 it stings even worse.

The rotation is composed of three guys currently living in the luxury boxes and two in Section 502 Row Z. It's time to end the Andy Sonnastine experiment and bring up Alex Cobb for that spot. As for Wade Davis, just hope he kicks it in similar to how he did last season, where in the second half he was maybe our second best SP. 

The offense is another story. It's so obvious Sam Fuld, John Jaso, Reid Brignac and Dan Johnson need to be replaced. What would I do? Allow Elliot Johnson to take over SS, call up Jose Lobaton, sending both Brignac and Jaso down to play every day. DFA Dan Johnson and call up Desmond Jennings or Justin Ruggiano if you're afraid of Jennings becoming a Super2. The makeup of this roster needs to change and change quickly.