It was a tale of disappointment for the Rays, leaving Baltimore after losing two of three and falling to four games back in the AL wildcard. Looking deeper into the two losses and Rays’ fans may feel panic creeping across their faces.
The offense put up two runs in each of the losses. They scored a total of nine runs for the series, against an Orioles staff that is dead last in the AL in ERA. Look no further than the numbers put up by the heart of their order, and you can see the glaring hole they have to fix as they head to Boston.
The top two-thirds of the lineup was a total 6 for 42 in the two losses. B.J. Upton, Johnny Damon and Ben Zobrist were a combined 2 for 19. It doesn’t take much baseball insight to see that will not get it done, especially against the offensive lineup of the Boston Red Sox.
One increasingly alarming downturn has been the decline of Desmond Jennings. Jennings who got off to such a hot start in July and early August has been mired in a slump for the last two weeks. In his last 14 games he is batting .138, 8 for 58. The slump has brought his average down from .351 to .286 for the year. His strikeouts have risen too of late. In his last five games he has struck out eight times. Is he just not seeing the ball as well now? Has the league figured him out? Those are questions that will be answered over the course of the next 14 games.
One thing is certain. The Rays have to get these players turned around and in a hurry. The Red Sox can score and at Fenway they can score in bunches. The Rays held them at bay when they visited a month ago, but that’s hard to do over a four game series. Tampa Bay’s staff has done the best job of any team in the American League when it comes to matching up with the Boston. They have an ERA of 2.69 against the Sox, a full run better than the next closes team. With the way they’re hitting right now they’ll need to be at least that good to have a chance.