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Saturday, Oct 21, 2017
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Tampa Bay Rays

Race is really just getting started

BOSTON - There are runners everywhere you look around town this weekend, a reminder of Monday's annual race to Boston, better known as the Boston Marathon. That is a marathon, not a sprint, a true 26.2-mile test of will. Baseball players utter and baseball writers type that phrase to describe the long 162-game season: It's a marathon not a sprint . If that's true – and the April to October season surely is a test of will – the Rays moved past the first mile mark early in Friday's game against the Red Sox.
Like those running Monday, the Rays know what transpired during the first mile is hardly an indication of what awaits them over the rest of the season. Yet, enough has happened through seven games to make you wonder if it is a good trend, a poor trend or something that will be forgotten over the course of the race to the postseason. Looking good Evan Longoria said he wanted to get off to a good start, and he has. Friday was his first hitless game since last September. He took a .400 batting average, a .500 on-base percentage and a .640 slugging percentage into Saturday's game with the Red Sox. Carlos Peña is thrilled to return to the Rays, and he's playing like someone glad to be home. He, too, carried a .400 average into Saturday's game. He also had a .516 on-base percentage and an .840 slugging percentage. Sure, he still strikes out, but Peña has been hitting the ball the other way against the shift and looks nothing like the Carlos Peña Rays fans remember from 2010. Ben Zobrist has been steady at the plate and owns two of the biggest hits this season, and Desmond Jennings has delivered in the clutch. Luke Scott, when healthy, hit the ball well, like Saturday's first-inning, three-run homer. Jeff Keppinger has put the ball in play, which is good to see in this lineup. James Shields bounced back from a poor first start and gave the Rays a chance against Detroit's Justin Verlander. Jeremy Hellickson almost threw a shutout. Matt Moore looked solid in his first start. Fernando Rodney, signed this offseason to add depth in the late innings, is 3 for 3 in save opportunities. Looking not so good Sean Rodriguez and Reid Brignac are a combined 2 for 27. Jose Molina and Jose Lobaton combined for a slightly better 5 for 23. Pitchers have thrown three wild pitches with Molina behind the plate, including two with a runner on third. The first week is certainly too short of a sample and all four are here more for their defense than offense, but still, heading into Saturday's game the catchers are batting a combined .217 and the shortstops are a combined .074. Joel Peralta has allowed five hits, walked four and given up seven runs in four appearances. He didn't pitch winter ball in the offseason in an effort to rest his arm from last season's heavy workload, and because of that he doesn't feel quite ready. In the span of four games Scott tweaked a hamstring, Hellickson was hit in the head with a batted ball and Lobaton developed a sore shoulder. The injury bug that bit the Rays hard during spring training is still hanging around. Also, Lobaton missed most of the second half of last season with a sprained knee and was called home from winter ball because of a shoulder injury. Can he stay healthy enough to prove he can play at this level? Still way too early to draw any conclusions, but there has been enough happening to make you wonder, good or otherwise.


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