The Brightest Rays of the Week is finally not the only form of optimism surrounding this team! Things are trending well for the Tampa Bay Rays after what manager Joe Maddon dubbed as "one of the best 5-5 road trips in the history of the Rays."
Four wins against the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees have brought the Rays back to within 1.5 games of first place coming into this week's series against the Baltimore Orioles and Cleveland Indians.
CF Desmond Jennings
(9-for-27, 3 doubles, 3 HR, 3 RBI, 7 runs scored, 3 SB, AL Player of the Week)
Quite the week for Mr. Jennings. Desmond, who currently holds a seven-game hitting streak, hit a home run in three consecutive games in the series finale against the Red Sox and the first two games against the Yankees. Perhaps his most impressive shot was the solo homer he drilled to right-center field against the heralded Masahiro Tanaka.
He contributed again in the field with more spectacular plays and has shown enough aggressiveness on the base paths that you'd think we were watching the 2008-10 Rays team. This is arguably the best baseball Rays fans have seen Jennings play in his career.
He was rewarded for his efforts by being named AL Player of the Week. Congrats, Desmond...you get a watch!
1B James Loney
(11-for-23, 3 doubles, 3 RBI)
Another week, another BROTW that features James Loney. What can you say about him other than he's arguably the one player you want up to the plate in an important situation.
He came through in the nightcap of the doubleheader against Boston with two hits, including a single that tied up the game at 5-5 in the eighth inning. His week ended on a sour note - 0-for-4 and two strikeouts - but his average remains at an impressive .330. His 3-year, $21 million contract is looking like a steal at this point for the Rays.
SS Yunel Escobar
(8-for-21, go-ahead solo home run against Red Sox)
Yunel finds himself on this week's list after providing one of the season's biggest moments thus far. Coming into his at-bat against Koji Uehara, he was 0-for-11 lifetime. And after Uehara's three-pitch strikeout against Ben Zobrist on Tuesday where he fooled one of the team's best hitters with his rising, high 80s fastball, no one expected this to happen. Well, maybe except Dewayne Staats and Brian Anderson...
The reactions from Uehara and Red Sox fans behind home plate are the best. If the Rays continue to play well, Escobar's home run could serve as the defining turning point.
RF Wil Myers
(8-for-26, 2 HR, 7 RBI)
Heading into last week, Myers hadn't shown any pop since the 16-1 blowout against the Yankees on 4/19. That changed in a hurry with the Rays playing at Yankee Stadium, a place where Myers crushes the ball (.333 Avg., 5 HR and 16 RBI). Not to mention, he's the only player in MLB history to have a 13-game hitting streak at Yankee Stadium to start his career.
.@WilMyers has hit safely in all 13 games he’s played at Yankee Stadium, the longest hitting streak for any player to begin his career.— MLB Stat of the Day (@MLBStatoftheDay) May 5, 2014
Add in a go-ahead single in the top of the 14th inning, an inside-the park home run (thanks Carlos Beltran!) and a solo shot off of Tanaka, and things are looking up for Myers who looked lost at the plate for most of April. Even more encouraging is the fact that both home runs were opposite field shots, which showcases just how much raw power he has.
He even got to play a little first base (apparently a "dream come true").
UTIL Sean Rodriguez
(7-for-20, 4 doubles, 1 HR, 3 RBI)
S-Rod swung a hot bat this week, earning himself four consecutive starts after not starting since 4/26. He crushed left-handed pitching, including two 3-hit games with five extra-base hits.
Rodriguez is only batting a mediocre .245 at the plate, but he's making the most of his limited opportunities. Nine of his 12 hits have been extra-base hits and he's tied for the team lead with four home runs. Typically, he'll only see playing time against left-handed pitching, but his success at the plate and his hustle in the field may give him more consistent starting opportunities.