ST. PETERSBURG — The two wins against the Seattle Mariners this week came about because the Tampa Bay Rays’ offense did something it couldn’t do during the losing streak: hit with runners in scoring position.
The Rays were 2-for-2 with runners in scoring position in the ninth inning of Wednesday’s walk-off win and 2-for-2 during Thursday’s four-run fifth that broke open a 1-1 game.
The Rays were leading the American League in hitting with RISP before the All-Star break. They hit .267 with RISP during July, which was the second-best average in the league. That dropped to .228 in August and plunged to .204 (11-for-54) during the six-game losing streak.
“I think you’re going to go through a little bit of a lull,” hitting coach Derek Shelton said this week.
Shelton said he didn’t see anyone pressing in key situations. He said the line drives and ground balls that were hits earlier in the season were outs during the losing streak.
“And it got magnified because we weren’t playing very well,” he said.
Manager Joe Maddon said it was a matter of the Rays getting away from what they did so well earlier in the year — swing at strikes and not at pitches out of the strike zone.
“The thing that we were doing so well earlier in the season when we were swarming more is we weren’t swinging and missing,” Maddon said. “I thought we had done a really good job when we went to Houston prior to the All-Star break. It seems at the point we started to really get our strike zones in order offensively and were doing a nice job. We kind of got away from that a little bit.”
The Rays were 8-for-22 with RISP during the two wins against the Mariners.
Jose Lobaton drove home Yunel Escobar from third base Friday during the Rays’ first chance with a RISP.
Back sidelines Scott
DH Luke Scott did not start Friday because of back spasms, an issue that kept him out of Thursday’s game. As a result Maddon used Wil Myers as the DH for the second straight night and played Kelly Johnson in left field.
“Because of that I’d like to get Wil off of his feet and get Kelly on his feet,” Maddon said.
CF Desmond Jennings (fractured left middle finger) took 20 swings in the cage with Shelton pitching. He said aside from there being pain, it went well.
Maddon said Jennings could play in a minor-league game Sunday to determine if he’s ready to return Monday, the first day he’s eligible to come off the disabled list.
Jennings is hoping to join the team for the series in Baltimore.
“It’s probably going to hurt for a while,” Jennings said. “I guess it’s a deal-with-the-pain kind of thing.”
The Rays have their eye on former Devil Ray Delmon Young, who is now a free agent. Young could help the Rays against lefties, having batted .286/.361/.397 against lefties this season while with the Phillies. ... RHP Jesse Crain (right shoulder strain) played catch Friday at 105 feet and hopes to throw off the mound by the end of next week. ... Blue Jays LHP J.A. Happ will pitch tonight at the Trop for the first time since he was stuck in the head May 7 by a line drive off Jennings’ bat. ... Maddon drove his new 40-foot RV to the Trop on Friday because he needed a place to park it. ... Myers joined Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio among the major-leaguers to have a pair of four-RBI games within two months of their MLB debut.