Tampa Bay Rays
Rays notes: Team still patient after slow start
ST. PETERSBURG - If that 2-7 road trip humbled the Rays a bit, you couldn’t tell from their remarks before Friday night’s home matchup against the sizzling A’s. Tampa Bay lurched into Tropicana Field at 5-10 after a disappointing trek to Texas, Boston and Baltimore left the Rays six games behind the Red Sox in the American League East. It’s their worst 15-game getaway in
Joe Maddon’s eight years as manager.
“You never want to see a road trip like that, ever, but that’s baseball,’’ said Sean Rodriguez, who started at first base Friday for the second time this season. “It happens, and we’ve been known to lose in bunches. But the key is staying patient. It’s going to click and we’ll be on all cylinders.’’
The Rays lost four games by one run and batted .196 on the trip, including a .114 average with runners in scoring position. “You just keep grinding,’’ said DH Shelley Duncan. “We’ve had a lot of bad breaks in this stretch, and the game of baseball finds a way of evening itself out. It’s a long season.’’
Under the radar While San Francisco fans are celebrating two World Series titles in the past three years, their baseball neighbors in the East Bay are off to an impressive start.
Averaging six runs per game, the A’s entered Friday night’s matchup with the AL’s best record at 12-4, including a 6-0 mark on the road.
“They’re playing the game properly, and they’re a lot like us,’’ Maddon said. “They pitch really well, they play hard and they have this belief that they’re going to win the close games.’’
Two former Rays, C John Jaso and RP Grant Balfour, are playing well for the A’s. Jaso was hitting .438 on the road, while Balfour had converted 21 consecutive save opportunities.
“They’ve got a really good lineup 1-through-9,’’ said Jeremy Hellickson, who will start against Oakland tonight. “It’s going to be a tough outing.’’
The Maddon touch One of the reasons the Rays aren’t overly concerned about their sluggish start is the stoic nature of the man making out the lineup card.
“I’ve played for a lot of managers in my career,’’ Duncan said, “and they are usually the guy that players feed off. I’ve had managers that panicked and ones that don’t walk in with the same confidence every day. It’s different with Joe. He’s relaxed and he’s the same guy every day. That helps a lot … you find the bad spells aren’t as long as they normally would be.’’
Rodriguez said Maddon’s even keel is critical when facing adversity.
“As players, when your manager starts to press, that’s usually when you start to press,’’ Rodriguez said. “We feed off his mojo.’’
Noteworthy Rays top prospect OF Wil Myers was not in the lineup for Triple-A Durham on Friday night against Norfolk because of a bruised right foot. Myers said on his Twitter account that he hopes to play today. … Tampa Bay is in the midst of a stretch of nine consecutive games against AL teams that advanced to the 2012 postseason — the Orioles, A’s and Yankees. … Oakland starter Brett Anderson lasted only one inning, throwing 36 pitches and allowing four hits and four runs before being lifted for Evan Scribner with a sprained right ankle. … The Rays have used 14 different batting orders in 16 games.