Monday night’s game was especially important for the Rays as two of their key position players, Luke Scott and Desmond Jennings, returned to the lineup following injury concerns and several pitchers that they have been worried about also took the mound. While they couldn’t emerge victorious on Monday, the Rays received exactly the type of effort they would have wanted and had plenty of positives to take away from the game.
Jennings immediately made his presence felt in his first at-bat back, slamming a leadoff double off of Minnesota Twins’ starting pitcher Vance Worley. Evan Longoria followed two batters later with an RBI double to give the Rays a 1-0 lead. Then in the second inning, it was Scott’s time to shine as he led off the inning with a solo home run that knotted the game at 2 runs apiece. Scott had an excellent game, going 2 for 3 with that home run and also a double, while Jennings went 1 for 2 with a walk and a run scored. The Rays had to be very encouraged by how well both of them played and hope that their injury issues are finally behind them.
Despite the best efforts of Jennings, Scott, and Evan Longoria, the Rays trailed 3-2 after 4 innings in this game. But that was no statement against Rays starter Roberto Hernandez. Hernandez’s command was not very good as he allowed many fewer groundballs than usual and a few too many line drives on his way to allowing 3 runs, 2 earned, on 5 hits in his 4 innings of work. However, he also struck out 3 while walking none in this game, something that especially stands out considering he has managed just 5.4 strikeouts per 9 innings and only a 1.55-t0-1 strikeout to walk ratio in his major league career, and Joe Maddon said after the game that he really liked his changeup. The Rays signed Hernandez hoping he could rebound after a couple of bad years and give them a pitcher with a chance to throw 200 innings as a starter, but another big reason was unfulfilled promise in his breaking pitches, and if Hernandez’s changeup stays as good as it was on Monday, he could have a big season ahead.
Tampa Bay tied the game at 3-3 in the fifth inning, as Evan Longoria hit his second RBI double of the night. Always great to see Longoria playing well, and every Rays fan knows that he’ll be the key to their offense this season. Then in the 8th inning, Jason Bourgeois and Brandon Guyer came up huge, with Bourgeois singling and stealing both second and third base before Guyer singled up the middle to drive him in and give the Rays the lead. Speaking of players returning from injury, Guyer has shown flashes in his first games back from shoulder surgery and was really good in this game, going 2 for 2 with his big RBI.
Unfortunately, though, a win was not in the cards for the Rays as right-hander J.D. Martin struggled mightily, allowing 3 runs in 1+ innings as the Rays lost 6-4 in the 10th. But despite their second loss in a row, the Rays had several reasons to be excited. Taking the forefront were Scott, Jennings, Longoria, and Guyer, and James Loney also had multiple hits. And then on the pitching side, the Rays got strong performances from four players who could make up the backbone of their middle relief corps this season, Jamey Wright, Kyle Farnsworth, Joel Peralta, and Jake McGee, who tossed an inning pitched with a strikeout each with the only baserunners being a pair of singles and a hit batsman. Wright hasn’t pitched as well as expected in his bid to make the Rays’ roster, Farnsworth has experienced some elbow trouble, and McGee’s velocity has been down, but all three pitched well, with McGee especially standing out as he hit 95 MPH off the mound for the first time all spring.
The Rays will look to get back on the winning track and hope to see more promising performances as they take on the New York Yankees this afternoon at Charlotte Sports Park at 1:05 p.m. Alex Cobb will be the starting pitcher, with Brandon Gomes expected to pitch as well.