Tampa Bay Rays
Rays notes: Team ties doubles record Saturday
What was notable about CF Desmond Jennings's ninth-inning single was that it was the only one of the Rays' 11 hits Saturday that did not go for extra bases.
The Rays tied a team record for the most doubles in a game with eight and homered twice as they rallied for a 10-6 victory against the Orioles.
The offense continues to be the strong point of the team, scoring a major league-high 168 runs in their last 29 games with a major league-best .286 batting average.
“It's even surprising to me. I'll be honest with you,” 3B Evan Longoria said. “I knew we had a good team coming into the spring but I think the way that we've come together as an offense and what we've been able to do has been very surprising in a great way. It's been fun to watch.”
Longoria extended his hit streak to 12 with a ninth-inning double. That ties the longest streak of his career. He's batting .396 with six doubles, three homers and 12 RBIs during the stretch.
Jennings has hit safely in 11 of his last 12 games. LF Kelly Johnson is hitting .344 with 18 RBIs in his last 16 games. SS Yunel Escobar has a seven-game hitting streak. RF Matt Joyce had two doubles, a home run and tied his career-high with five RBIs.
In their first 13 games of the season, the Rays were last in the American League in batting (.204) and runs (39) and recorded only one game with at least 10 hits.
What's up with Hellickson? On Friday, RHP Jeremy Hellickson became the first pitcher since Britt Burns of the White Sox in 1985 to pitch at least seven innings and allow eight runs and still pick up the win.
Earning the victory was one of the positives Hellickson took out of the start. That and not walking a batter. Yet he's still somewhat mystified by his inability to finish off a team while pitching with a big lead.
“I've been down to one strike my last two outings and gave up eight runs with one strike left. Obviously I wish I could get out of that inning both times,” he said. “I just got to bear down a little bit more and finish, finish the inning.”
Manager Joe Maddon said Hellickson is struggling with his location. He's throwing strikes but they are not in the right area of the strike zone. Hellickson is not sure that's the problem.
“I don't remember too many fastballs that I mislocated,” he said. “A lot of the hits were bad curveballs or change-ups that just kind of sat there. I missed my fastball once in a while, but I thought overall fastball command was pretty good.”
Hellickson is not sure of a solution other than to bear down.
“I felt the last three or four starts it's been one inning where I can't limit the damage to one or two runs,” he said. “In a blink of an eye it's five runs or a grand slam. It just happened so fast. You got to bear down and get out of those situations. I just can't keep giving up three, four or five runs an inning.”
And Farnsworth? RHP Kyle Farnsworth might be underused, according to Maddon. Farnsworth has appeared in 14 games this season by design as Maddon tries to protect his arm against injury. Maddon won't warm Farnsworth up unless he knows he will use him.
Yet, even with those safeguards in place, Farnsworth is struggling. He's allowed seven runs on 13 hits in his last 42/3 innings. His fastball has touched 95 this season, but Farnsworth is content using his cutter — the pitch that was so successful in 2011.
“You look at the breakdown, the stuff we get after he throws the velocity is actually trending good,” Maddon said. “Break on the breaking pitches, velocity on fastball is not bad. It's actually pretty good and in a good range. I don't even know if he has to pitch more often. I'm not sure. I'm really trying to protect him in a lot of ways.”
Noteworthy C Jose Molina left the game after his fifth-inning double with tightness in his left hamstring. He said he is OK and can play today if needed. … June 3 has been eliminated as the makeup date for the snowed-out game in Kansas City. … RHP Joel Peralta has faced the 3-4-5 hitters more than any other spots in the order since joining the Rays in 2011. He's held them to a .189 average. … The Rays conclude this series with a 1:35 p.m. start today and begin a three-game series in Toronto with a 1:07 p.m. start Monday. “It's suboptimal as they say,” Maddon said.
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