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Thursday, May 24, 2018
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Tampa Bay Rays

Rays find bats in 11-3 romp over Indians

CLEVELAND - On Sunday, a large part of the show belonged to Sam Fuld, Jose Lobaton and Yunel Escobar, a part-time player and two bottom-of-the-order guys who did much of the heavy lifting on offense as the Big Ray Machine rolled again.

This time it was an 11-3 victory against the Cleveland Indians at Progress Field that clinched the series victory for the Rays, who enjoy an off day today before continuing this road trip Tuesday in Detroit.

The Rays have won seven of their past eight games and are an American League-best 17-7 since May 8, scoring at least five runs in 14 of those games.

“It's unbelievable right now,” winning pitcher Jeremy Hellickson said. “Don't really need to say much. They're scoring a lot of runs for us and making our jobs a lot easier. … It's kind of even old news talking about it. We've been scoring runs for a while now.”

The Rays have scored a major league-high 243 runs since April 17 and now sit fourth in the AL with 282 runs, three behind the Tigers.

Not bad for a team that scratched and clawed and begged and borrowed to score runs during the past few seasons.

“It's night and day from what it was the last couple of years,” Matt Joyce said.

The Rays are striking out less — 6.89 times a game this season as opposed to 8.17 in 2012. They are getting productive outs — second in the league with 20 sacrifice flies.

Manager Joe Maddon likes to call it a “swarming offense,” one capable of scoring on anything from a sacrifice fly — Kelly Johnson had one in the eighth inning — to home runs — Escobar clubbed one in the sixth and Evan Longoria hit one in the ninth. Both were two-run blasts.

“That's what we're able to do,” Maddon said. “The bottom part is really contributing a lot to all of that.”

On Sunday, Fuld, Lobaton and Escobar — the Nos.7, 8 and 9 hitters — combined for seven of the Rays' 14 hits and scored four runs.

“It's hard to put a finger on any one thing in particular,” Fuld said. “A day like (Sunday) kind of sums it up, where you may not be getting production at the top or middle of the order but the bottom seemed to pick us up. It's just nice not panicking when certain guys we rely on heavily — Longo, (Ben Zobrist) — they are maybe not going as well as they typically do, it's nice to not panic and have other guys pick them up.”

Longoria's home run tied him with Johnson and Joyce for the team lead at 10. But it was his first since May 11. Zobrist was 0-for-5, though he did reach on a fielder's choice in the ninth to extend his streak of reaching base to 16 games.

“It's a lot of pressure off myself, definitely,” Longoria said. “I know that we're going to score runs, and we're getting production from one through nine. Everybody is swinging the bat well. It seems like if one guy doesn't get it done, the next guy is coming up is getting it done. It makes it really fun.”

Lobaton, entrenched in the No.8 spot, has his average up to .266 and has reached base in 19 of his past 20 starts. Escobar, who is back to batting ninth, is hitting .342 since May 11.

“You look at one through nine able to drive the ball, hit a home run, move the ball, man, it's great,” Joyce said. “That's the key to scoring a lot of runs when you have that many guys who can do so many different things with the ball.”

It was a nice bounce back for the Rays after Saturday's 5-0 loss. James Loney got it started with a two-run double in the first. Zobrist and Luke Scott (also 0-for-5) were the only Rays not to get a hit. Ryan Roberts, who pinch hit in the ninth for Joyce, contributed an RBI single.

“I think offensively we're really clicking right now,” Longoria said. “We're doing a lot of things well offensively. Definitely there's more. We haven't really put everything together.”
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