Tampa Bay Rays
Rays notes: Loney getting stronger, among AL leaders
ST. PETERSBURG -
Tampa Bay Rays 1B James Loney arrived for work Thursday as the leading hitter in the American League with a .385 average.
Loney received the necessary at-bats Wednesday night to qualify among the league leaders. His 2-for-5 night kept his average at .385, which became the highest in the AL when Detroit's Miguel Cabrera went 1-for-4 to drop his average to .381. † And after Thursday's 0-for-1 - including three walks - he is one percentage point behind Cabrera at .381.
Only three other Rays have led the league this deep into the season: B.J. Upton (AL-high .366 on May 8, 2007), Jason Bartlett (AL-high .373 on June 6, 2009) and Matt Joyce (major league-best .364 on June 2, 2011).
“I didn't realize that,” manager Joe Maddon said. “That's pretty cool.”
Loney entered Thursday's game hitting .485 in his past 20 games. His .483 average with runners in scoring position was tied for second in the AL. He was also hitting .556 against left-handers, something Maddon is trying to avoid.
“We're still going to give him days off against certain lefties, and I think that's going to work out well because it will help him maintain this level of competency and also get him off his feet and keep his strong season in progress, but bully for him, man,” Maddon said. “He's hitting the ball line to line. Really an aggressive swing. He's nice at driving in runs because he moves the ball normally. It's been fun to watch.”
About the Padres The National League's San Diego Padres begin a three-game interleague series tonight at Tropicana Field, providing the Rays with an unfamiliar foe and an uncomfortable feeling.
“I've always liked playing against teams that you know, just for the simple fact that you know them and you feel better about your prep and there's no surprises and you have a better understanding,” Maddon said.
RHP Alex Cobb, who faces the Padres tonight for the first time in his career, said he will study more video than normal.
“This is a team that we never even see on TV much or anything like that, so it's going to be a completely new list of names for me and a new approach,” Cobb said.
This will be the fifth interleague series with the Padres and the fourth at the Trop. The Rays are 6-6 all-time against the Padres, including 3-6 at home.
Hit Show † In their 20 games prior to Thursday, the Rays had scored a major league-high 113 runs with a .284 batting average that was second in the majors.
“It's kind of fun to watch the offense pick it up,” Maddon said.
In addition to Loney, LF Kelly Johnson hit .421 with 13 RBIs in his last 10 games, C Jose Lobaton hit .400 on the recent road trip, CF Desmond Jennings extended his hitting streak to seven games with a second-inning single Thursday, DH Luke Scott took a .350 average into Thursday's game since returning from the disabled list, and UTL Ben Zobrist continues to get on base ahead of 3B Evan Longoria.
“Everything's just gotten better up and down the lineup,” Maddon said.
Scoring change † Upon re-review, Zobrist was charged with an error during the seventh inning of Saturday's game at Colorado. As a result, the five runs that scored that inning against LHP David Price are not earned.
The change dropped Price's ERA from 6.25 to 5.24 before Thursday's start against the Jays.
Zobrist was initially given an error. After the game, the official scorer changed his ruling to a hit.
Noteworthy † Winter Haven's Cuaney Bamberg was selected as the winner of the Honorary Bat Girl Contest for Sunday's game. A breast cancer survivor, Bamberg was chosen for her commitment to fighting the disease. … The Rays and Royals have picked June 3 as the makeup for the May 2 game that was snowed out in Kansas City. The teams are waiting for the approval of MLB. … Maddon became the first member of the Rays to be ejected in consecutive games when he was tossed Tuesday and Wednesday.