The Tampa Bay Rays got off to a positive start in the first week of the 2014 season. Finishing with a 4-3 record, the Rays find themselves in first place after the first seven games as they get set to start a nine-game road trip to Kansas City, Cincinnati and Baltimore.
Before the next week of baseball begins, let's take look back at some of the standout players for the Rays during the last week of action.
SP Chris Archer
(signed an eight-year, $45 million contract extension; 1 W, 6 IP, 2 ER, 7 K)
The 25-year old's 2014 season got off to a quick start as Archer signed an eight-year contract extension that could earn him up to $45.5 million by 2021. Archer followed up the signing of his new contract with a strong performance against the Toronto Blue Jays on Thursday night.
The right-hander struck out seven in six innings and earned the win in a 7-2 victory for the Rays. Archer mainly used two pitches throughout the outing, his plus-plus fastball and plus-plus slider. More importantly, he looked calm and composed during the game, further proving the outstanding maturity he possesses for such a young pitcher.
It was a strong opening to what could be a breakout season for Archer.
1B James Loney
(2 doubles, 2 RBI, 2 BB in 5-4 win against the Rangers on 4/5)
Loney made his presence felt on Saturday after reaching base in all four plate appearances with two doubles and two walks. The biggest moment for Loney came after the Rangers intentionally walked Evan Longoria, putting the go-ahead run on base. Loney made them pay by nailing a two-run double over the head of Shin-Soo Choo in left field, which gave the Rays a 5-4 lead in the bottom of the eighth inning.
The big hit came off of LHP Neal Cotts, who Loney reminded us is the pitcher responsible for dropping his 2013 batting average below .300 in Game 163. It looks like Loney hadn't forgotten.
UTIL Sean Rodriguez
(birth of his fourth child, 2B, HR, 4 RBI in 8-1 win against Rangers on 4/4)
S-Rod had himself quite a game on Friday against the Rangers. Fresh off of paternity leave for the birth of his fourth child, Rodriguez led the Rays to an 8-1 victory. He had two extra-base hits, including a three-run home run. He only totaled seven at-bats this week, but it's hard to argue that Rodriguez didn't have a great first week of the season, both on and off the field.
SP Jake Odorizzi
(1 W, 6 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 4 K; earned first career win in MLB)
Jake Odorizzi first win in Major League Baseball came in a strong outing against the Texas Rangers on Friday night. The rookie didn't allow a run to a potent Texas offense and showed strong command of a new split/change pitch, which Maddon has appropriately dubbed "The Cobb", throwing it 22 times for 14 strikes.
The No. 5 pitcher spot was the biggest question mark for the Rays rotation heading into the 2014 season, but Odorizzi's strong first start may silence any critics he had coming out of Spring Training.
3B Evan Longoria
(.360 BA, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 2 doubles; tied Carlos Pena for Rays all-time HR record)
The Rays superstar got off to a hot start in 2014. Longoria recorded at least one hit in six out of the first seven games and had three multi-hit performances.
His home run against the Blue Jays on Thursday tied him with Carlos Pena for the Rays all-time HR record with 163 dingers and was the first home run for the Rays in 2014. In addition to his outstanding offensive performance, Longoria once again flashed the leather at the hot corner, making incredibly tough plays look easy, including this diving stop and throw from his knees.
Did I mention he followed that play up with two more spectacular plays the next night?
Longoria also wins the award for best T-shirt, which he wore on Intentional Talk.
Who do you think had the best week?