MINNEAPOLIS — Right-handers entered Saturday’s game with a major league-high .335 batting average against Twins RHP Phil Hughes, so that’s why Rays manager Joe Maddon stacked his lineup with righties.
It was a move Maddon said he made because the Rays are also fighting a time element as they try to make a charge up the standings. He said he’s managing now as if it is September.
“I don’t want to put all the lefties out there in the traditional manner and find out he does kill lefties, and about the third, fourth inning you wish you had done something different,” Maddon said. “The numbers are there for a reason. He’s been killing lefties. That’s an example, where as I might have challenged that a little more, let’s say you’re like 20 games over (.500) and you got a different position in the standings. So for right now I thought the best offensive day could be conjured up by this group.”
Maddon said the hardest part of filling out the lineup card was leaving off RF Kevin Kiermaier, who entered with a five-game hitting streak and hits in 11 of his previous 18 at-bats.
Also, OF Matt Joyce has a career .467 average with two home runs against Hughes, but Maddon said most of that damage was done in 2010 when Hughes was a different pitcher.
The underlying motive to the lineup was lefties are batting .231 against Hughes while righties are hitting him often.
“Hughes is a different kind of a pitcher, where he kind of vacillates. One year he’s better against lefties, one year he’s better against righties,” Maddon said. “This year he’s dominating lefties. Dominating.”
Also, with the Rays off Monday and Thursday this week and two games removed from the four-day All-Star break, Maddon doesn’t want some of the right-handers sitting too long, especially since they will face a righty this afternoon and two righties in St. Louis — Adam Wainwright and Lance Lynn.
“This to me was the best opportunity to get some of the righties out there and keep them solvent,” Maddon said.
Not only did C Curt Casali single in his first big-league at-bat Friday and score the game’s first run, but also he impressed Maddon with the way he handled himself behind the plate while catching RHP Alex Cobb.
“The thing that I saw that was very impressive was the way he blocked the ball, because Cobb is not easy,” Maddon said. “He’s going to throw that curveball in the dirt, that change-up in the dirt, and he did a really nice job with that. He received the ball well. The glove wasn’t jumping all over the place, and when you talked to him he definitely was in control of his emotions, so all that was a positive.”
Maddon said home plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt remarked after the game that he was impressed with the way Casali handled himself during his big-league debut.
“The guy’s definitely ready to be here,” Maddon said. “So I’m not afraid to use him.”
Archer ready for this
RHP Chris Archer, who starts this afternoon in the series finale, said he has been preparing for this part of the season since before spring training.
“The reason why I put myself through so much in the offseason, spring training and even early on in the season, is so July, August, September, I’m peaking,” Archer said. “I want to be at the top level of my performance in these months. That’s the mentality. I schedule my regiment toward that. I feel good. Those four days of doing nothing really helped. My body feels great and I’m ready to go into this second half of the season strong.”
Ken Rivizza, the sports psychologist who serves as the Rays’ mental coach, held a meeting Saturday before batting practice to share with the players what he’s learned about how surgeons prepare for and perform difficult, life-threatening surgeries. ... Joyce’s RBI single Friday off Twins RHP Matt Guerrier gave him a cycle in five career plate appearances against Guerrier. Joyce also walked once. ... RHP Jeremy Hellickson pitches this afternoon in Clearwater for Single-A Charlotte. Game time is 1 p.m.