Tampa Bay Rays
Rays' bats show signs of life in win over O's
They used words like grinding and plugging and phrases such as pounding on the door to describe what was needed to break the funk that gripped them through this first road trip of the season.
The Tampa Bay Rays accomplished all of those Wednesday in a 6-2 win against the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards that snapped a four-game losing streak.
Matt Moore won again and the trio of Jake McGee, Joel Peralta and Fernando Rodney were dusted off and used to finish off the game, just as they were a week earlier when the Rays last won a ball game.
The offense came to life, scoring its most runs since a 6-0 win against the Cleveland Indians on April 6 and reached double-digits in hits for the first time since the second game of the season.
“They just need some confidence, they need some stuff to fall,” manager Joe Maddon said. “A couple of wins under our belt, all of a sudden they'll fall into a nice little groove here and things will start turning out like they supposed to.”
The story was the offense, and the story off the offense was the production of the new guys.
Paced by James Loney, who was 3-for-3 with a pair of doubles and three RBI, Kelly Johnson, Shelley Duncan and Loney combined to go 8-for-14 and drove in all six runs.
Duncan, whose second inning home run made it a 2-0 game, said the team was watching the MLB Network before the game and listened as they talked about the Rays.
The gist of the report was this: outside of Evan Longoria and Ben Zobrist, the Rays have no offense.
“I think we stepped it up a little bit,” Duncan said.
Loney added 75 points to his batting average and nearly doubled his RBI output for the season with his big night.
“He may be quiet but there's a pretty good fire burning inside,” Maddon said.
Speaking of fire, Maddon was ejected in the fifth inning for arguing the call by second base umpire Brian Knight that Johnson was out stealing when replays showed that might not have been the case. The umpiring has not been kind to the Rays on this trip and Maddon finally had enough.
“The same old record was playing, and I didn't want to hear it anymore,” Maddon said.
Maddon's ejecting didn't necessarily fire up the troops since the Rays led 4-2 at the time.
For that, Duncan said look no farther than Johnson's first inning at-bat.
Johnson, hitting second in the order for the second straight game, homered in the first inning to give the Rays a quick lead.
“I think it all starts with Kelly Johnson in the first inning,” Duncan said. “You come and do that and it allows everyone to relax a lot and go out there and be aggressive. I think that's what really set the tone.”
Desmond Jennings homered on the first pitch of the night Tuesday, but starter Roberto Hernandez quickly gave back the lead in the bottom of the inning.
Moore soon found himself in a little bit of trouble in the bottom of the first when the Orioles put runners on the corners with two outs and Chris Davis coming to the plate.
Davis, who crushed Rays pitching in the opening series of the season, turned on a pitch from more and drove it to deep center field. Jennings easily made the catch on the warning track.
The Orioles did tie to score at 2-2 after umpires checked the replay and decided the drive Adam Jones hit off the top of the center field wall had indeed left the park and ruled it a two-run homer.
But after that the night belonged to Moore and the Rays offense.
Moore was solid through 6 2/3 innings. He allowed his first runs of the season – Jones's homer snapped a 14-inning scoreless streak – but improved to 3-0.
“I was able to get ahead,” Moore said. “I threw my breaking ball a lot, and that allowed me to set up my other pitches and miss off the plate a little bit. They're obviously a good hitting team, so it was very important to get that first pitch over for a strike.”
Meanwhile, the new guys continued to hit, and the Rays, horrible on the road trip with runners in scoring position, were 4-for-11 on Wednesday in those situations.
The nine-game road trips ends tonight and with David Price pitching, the Rays have a chance to salvage the trip – 2-6 so far – with a series win against a division opponent.
“Overall the body of work hasn't been great,” Maddon said. “But if we can finish off strong, go on home getting things back together, I'll be very pleased with that.”
The music returned to the clubhouse after the victory. Ozzy Osbourne's “Crazy Train” played over the speakers and strobe lights, used during the post-victory celebratory dance party, were still flashing when the doors were open to the media.
The end of the losing streak made for an enjoyable night.
“We've all experienced losing streaks,” Duncan said. “We know it's early in the season and there will be ups and down so keep grinding.”