Tampa Bay Rays
Rays notes: Trop gives team unique advantage
ST. PETERSBURG -
The Tampa Bay Rays are never going to be very happy with Tropicana Field as a home venue, but manager Joe Maddon admits it does have some quirks that give the team a decided edge.
One such quirk came into play Tuesday when Mike Napoli lost sight of a Matt Joyce pop-up that blended into the Trop’s white ceiling and fell in for a two-run single, capping a five-run fifth in a 5-3 Rays win.
“It worked in our favor last night,” Maddon said of the Trop’s white ceiling, “and when it comes to fly balls, it should always be in our favor because we get to play here all the time.”
Maddon said the white roof makes the Trop one of the most difficult outfields to play in the major leagues and added that he is stunned by how well the Rays outfielders handle the challenges it presents.
“It astonishes me how well our guys play here,” he said. “Guys will take their eyes off (the ball) and then come back for it, which is not a fun thing to do. I’m really impressed with our outfield play here.
“That (running) catch (against the wall) that Sam (Fuld) made here (on Sunday), that (over-the-shoulder) catch that MattJoyce made here (on Sunday) — that’s not easy, especially here.’’
Feast or famine Rays RHP Alex Cobb will take the mound tonight for the first time since he set a major-league record Friday, and if he continues to trend the way he has his past two starts, it will be feast for famine for Red Sox hitters.
Cobb became the first pitcher in history to strike out 13 batters in an outing lasting less than five innings his last time out, but that record has been stained a bit by his sudden penchant for giving up the long ball. Cobb, who allowed two home runs through his first five starts this season, gave up two homers in one inning against the Padres in his last start and has allowed five in his past two starts combined.
“The results haven’t been what I’ve wanted the last couple outings,’’ said Cobb, who lasted just 42/3 innings against San Diego. “There are just way too many home runs being hit right now.”
Cobb said the key to limiting the home runs is to throw more ground balls. The key to doing that, he said, is to throw a better fastball than the one he threw to the Padres hitters.
“That was the best my change-up has been, that’s for sure, but my fastball was probably just mediocre,’’ Cobb said. “It wasn’t great. That’s why I gave up two bombs on it.’’
Closing time Rays closer Fernando Rodney seems to have found his groove again. He went into Wednesday’s game with nine strikeouts and one hit allowed over the course of his past four appearances, which span four full innings. Maddon said Rodney’s new-found rhythm is a result of the Rays finally being able to use him consistently in the kind of save situations that Rodney is accustomed to working in.
“A closer really needs to get that adrenalin rush going to be as good as he can be, and all those things are starting to fall into place for him now,” Maddon said. “He definitely looks better.’’
Winning combo The Rays are a combined 13-2 in games started by Cobb and LHP Matt Moore, and the fact the team is 8-0 with Moore on the mound and 5-2 with Cobb there doesn’t bother Cobb much, if at all.
“He’s pulling away a little bit, but it’s a good competition for him to be beating me in,’’ Cobb said. “As long as I’m pitching well and he’s doing what he’s doing, then it’s all good.’’