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Monday Morning Rays Wrap Up: Hanging Around

The Rays finished the week 2-3 and find themselves 1.5 games out of first place as Justin Verlander salvaged one game against the Red Sox over the weekend and a half a game behind the New York Yankees. The Rays will be adding Alex Cobb to their rotation and may need to make another move if Casey Kotchman has to make a trip to the disabled list (ankle). The Rays are doing their best to hang around in the AL East  and currently have the fourth best record in the AL after the Indians, Red Sox, and Yankees. While that previous sentence may indicate that the Rays are in good shape, but even the most optimistic fan would have to admit that the team needs to play better in the coming weeks in order to remain relevant into the summer.  The Rays will need more consistent performances from Wade Davis, J.P. Howell and Juan Cruz need to settle down in the bullpen, and the offense has to consistently produce more than 3 runs per game.

This Weeks Notes & Thoughts:

  • The Rays have been held to 3 or fewer runs 26 times this season (50% of their games) and their record in those games is 7-19. 
  • Entering Sunday's game the Rays offense ranked 8th in runs per game (4.22), 11th in batting average (.245), and 11th in on-base percentage (.310). All rankings put the Rays below league average in each metric.
  • Entering Sunday's game the Rays offense ranked 7th in slugging percentage (.399) and 7th in HR (49). Both rankings put the Rays above league average in each metric.
  • Entering Sunday's games, several Rays hitters excelled during the week Matt Joyce (.571/.571/.400), Casey Kotchman (.417/.385/.750), and Johnny Damon (.33/.368/.444).
  • Entering Sunday, the top two hitters for the Rays (70 or more PA) in the month of May were Matt Joyce (.429/.483/.779) and Casey Kotchman (.370/.427/.493).
  • Entering Sunday's game several Rays struggled during the week Evan Longoria (.200/.278/.400), Ben Zobrist (.176/.176/.235), and B.J. Upton (.143/.294/.143).
  • Entering Sunday, the two hitters struggling the most for the Rays (70 or more PA) in the month of May were Ben Zobrist (.244/.353/.360) and Evan Longoria (.235/.340/.435).
  • Jeremy Hellickson has officially made the Rays rotation as the Big Three. In the month of May, Hellickson has made 5 starts and has a record of 4-1 with an ERA of 1.36. 
  • Sean Rodriguez played a very nice shortstop this week and hit .333/.375/.467 (entering Sunday's game). I would guess that Joe Maddon is going to continue to have Rodriguez man shortstop and give an occasional start to Reid Brignac.
  • If Casey Kotchman goes to the disabled list the Rays could turn to Dan Johnson or Russ Canzler to replace him (either move would require a 40-man roster move). The Rays may wait a few days to see how Kotchman's ankle responds to treatment, in the meantime, we may see Felipe Lopez get an extended look at first base. 
  • The Rays continue with their major league record 52 games to start a season without committing multiple errors in a game.

The Rays looked ready to break through against the Tigers in the fourth inning. B.J. Upton opened the inning with a single and swiped second base, Johnny Damon singled to right field putting runners at first and third with nobody out, and Evan Longoria put the Rays on the board with a sacrifice fly.  Ben Zobrist laid down a bunt single and Tiger starter Phil Coke came up lame and had to exit the game due to a calf injury. Tiger lefthander Charlie Furbush, making his major league debut, complicated matters by walking Sean Rodriguez to load the bases with one out before striking out Felipe Lopez and Kelly Shoppach to end the inning.  The Tigers scored single tallies in the fifth and sixth to take a 2-1 lead off of Jeremy Hellickson who worked 6.1 innings and allowed 2 runs on 4 hits and allowed 4 walks while striking out 4. The Tigers put the game out of reach in the 8th inning when J.P. Howell gave up a leadoff walk to Brandon Inge who advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt, Scott Sizemore singled to put runners on first and third with one out. Howell responded by striking out Brennan Boesch before being replaced by Juan Cruz who came in to face Miguel Cabrera. Cruz got ahead of Cabrera 0-2 but was unable to put him away and Cabrera worked a walk to load the bases of Victor Martinez. Martinez smacked an inside fastball down the right field line to score two runs and Johnny Peralta hit a 2-run single to complete the Tigers scoring.  The Rays added two runs in the top of the ninth and bring the tying run to the plate, but Johnny Damon lined out to end the game and the Tigers won 6-3.

The Rays had to face Justin Verlander which is never an easy task in the second game of the series. In the bottom of the second, Wade Davis had his defense let him down when B.J. Upton dropped a line drive by Austin Jackson which would have ended the inning but also allowed Johnny Peralta to score to put the Tigers up 1-0.  The Rays battled back to tie the game in the third after a lead off double by Sean Rodriguez, a sacrifice fly advanced him to third, and he scored on a ground out to short.  The Rays took a 3-1 lead in the fourth on a two run homer by Matt Joyce. The Rays lead was short lived as Miguel Cabrera turned on an inside fastball and hit a 3-run homer to give the Tigers a 4-3 lead after 5.  The Rays retook the lead in off Verlander with 3 runs in the top of the sixth inning.  B.J. Upton hit an RBI single which put runners at 1st and 3rd for Casey Kotchman. Upton stole second base and the throw from Alex Avila got through shortstop Johnny Peralta which allowed Matt Joyce to race home from third.  Scott Sizemore's throw to the plate hit Joyce in the arm and ricochet away allowing Upton to advance to third.  Upton scored on a sacrifice fly by Casey Kotchman  to give the Rays a 6-4 lead.  Alex Avila hit a solo home run in the bottom of the sixth to cut the Rays lead to 6-5 and connected again for a two run homer off Rays reliever Cesar Ramos. Ex-Ray Joaquin Benoit worked the ninth to pick up his first save of the season as the Tigers won 7-6.

The Rays and Tigers had their third game of the series rained out and the Rays returned home to Tampa for a much needed off day after travelling from Tampa to Toronto to Miami to Detroit and back to Tampa. David Price, after back to back shaky outings against the Yankees and Marlins, looked to get back on top of his game and give the Rays a much needed win to stop a 2 game losing streak. I had the pleasure of watching this game from right behind home plate and David Price from the minute he took the mound pitched angry and with a purpose. The Rays gave Price an early 4-0 lead off Indians starter Josh Tomlin who gave up two run homers to both Casey Kotchman and Sam Fuld in the second inning.  Price worked seven scoreless innings, giving up 4 hits,  striking out a career high 12, while walking only 2.  The Rays added a fifth run against Indian reliever Chad Durbin and Joel Peralta and Adam Russell worked the final two innings to give the Rays a 5-0 victory.

The Rays looked to build on Friday's victory and had the matchup in their favor as James Shields was facing Carlos Carrasco. The early story of the game was Joe Maddon's decision to bat Evan Longoria in the leadoff spot to try and get him to relax and focused. The Indians jumped on Shields early as Micheal Brantley singled and scored on an Asdrubal Cabrera triple. James Shields helped himself out by picking Cabrera off third to give him the major league lead in pickoffs on the season. Shin-Soo Choo singled and advanced to third on a single by Travis Buck and scored on a sacrifice fly by Carlos Santana on what was an eventual double play as Buck lost track of how many outs there were in the inning. The Indians added a third run on a home run by former Gator and Port Charlotte native Matt LaPorta who had struck out 4 times on Friday night before connecting off Shields to give the Indians a 3-0 lead. Longoria, who had singled in his first at-bat, homered to lead off the third inning and cut the Indians lead to 3-1. The Rays continued to pressure the Indians and scored a run on a safety squeeze by Sean Rodriguez which was fielded by Carlos Carassco who threw the ball home allowing Rodriguez to be face at first. The Rays seemed on the verge of breaking through against Carrasco with runners at first and second and one out but Sam Fuld and Kelly Shoppach were retired on fly balls to end the inning. The Indians broke through in the 8th inning off Rays reliever JP Howell. Howell gave up a lead off single to Micheal Brantley and got Asdrubal Cabrera to hit a tailor made double play to Ben Zobrist who booted the play and put runners at first and third with nobody out. Howell hit Shin-Soo Choo to load the bases for pinch hitter Shelly Duncan who drove a ball to deep left field just out of the reach of Sam Fuld scoring two runs and giving the Indians a 5-2 lead. Kyle Farnsworth came in and retired Carlos Santana and Grady Sizemore on ground outs prior to giving up a 2-run single to Orlando Cabrera which gave th Indians a 7-2 lead.  The Rays mounted a ninth inning rally against Indians reliever Rafael Perez who couldn't locate the strike zone.  The Rays loaded the bases and the Indians had to bring in their closer Chris Perez to face Johnny Damon. Damon sent a hard grounder to first, Matt LaPorta but Damon beat Chris Perez to the bag and a run scored from third. Unfortunately for the Rays, Evan Longoria ran to third and forced Sean Rodriguez to try and score on the play. Perez ran at Rodriguez and after a short run down he was tagged out to end the game and gave the Indians a 7-3 victory.

Jeremy Hellickson was masterful on Sunday going 7 innings, allowing 3 hits, striking out 6 while walking 2.  The offense took advantage of Cleveland starter Justin Masterson's inability to find the strike zone and when he did the Rays made him pay. The Rays kept the pressure on Masterson all day with 8 hits and 5 walks in his 5 innings of work and scored 7 runs (6 earned).  Evan Longoria continued to hit the ball well out of the leadoff spot going 2-3 with 2 walks, John Jaso had two hits on the day including his third home run on the year which gave the Rays a 4-0 lead.  Adam Russell and Cesar Ramos pitched the final two innings and the Rays took the series against the Indians 2-1 with an 8-0 victory.  The only negative to the game was Casey Kotchman possible ankle injury suffered on a poor form slide trying to stretch a single into a double. 

Next week, the Rays will host Texas in a three game series before heading to Seattle to take on the suddenly surging Mariners. The Red Sox will host the Chicago White Sox and the Oakland A's. The Yankees will continue their west coast trip by travelling to Oakland and Los Angeles. The Toronto Blue Jays will host the Indians and then travel to Baltimore. The Orioles will finish their west coast trip in Seattle before returning home to face the Blue Jays.

For the Texas series, the Rays will send Wade Davis up against Derrick Holland on Monday, Alex Cobb vs CJ Wilson on Tuesday, and David Price vs Colby Lewis on Wednesday.  Against the Mariners, the Rays will match James Shields vs Felix Hernandez on Thursday, Jeremy Hellickson vs Jason Vargas on Friday, Wade Davis vs Doug Fister on Saturday, and Alex Cobb vs Erik Bedard 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.

This week saw another losing record as our Rays go 2-3 v DET and CLE The offense was gain carried by Kotchman and Joyce, and it was certainly nice to see Longoria snap out of it on Saturday and Sunday as our new leadoff hitter.

Price, Shields and Helly continue to dominate.

The bullpen is troubling as is the #4 and 5 spots in the rotation. It appears Alex Cobb finally replaces Sonny, and makes the start v CJ Wilson and the Rangers on Tuesday--Good Luck.

JP Howell is not ready and why Joe throws him into another high leverage spot is troubling. I think a bullpen arm is needed more than a bat right now. Let's win another home series before we head west.

Go Rays