As the Rays Cool Off, James Loney is Heating Back Up

By David Hill

One of the biggest problems for the Rays over their recent slide has been an inability to score runs. Seemingly as a whole, the offense has been in an awful slump, particularly over the past week. Over their last seven games heading into last night, the Rays have produced a batting line of .218/.321/.315. While the pitching has not been close to stellar, with an ERA of 5.24, the Rays inability to score runs has been glaring.

Aug 30, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Tampa Bay Rays first baseman James Loney (21) hits an RBI double against the Oakland Athletics during the eighth inning at Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Yet, despite the problems on offense, there has been at least one positive. James Loney has begun to heat back up, producing a .333/.417/.524 line with a home run and four RBIs. Loney has hit one of the two home runs the Rays have in the seven game stretch, and has driven in just under a quarter of their runs, accounting for four of the seventeen the Rays have scored in the past week.

This hot streak has come on the heels of a seven game stretch where Loney only hit .174/.240/.174. The difference, at least according to manager Joe Maddon, may be an adjustment that Loney made in his lower half, where he changed his leg position slightly. Now, the ball is starting to find those holes that it had been through most of the season, at a time when the Rays need someone to get hot with the bat.

"“Ball hotter off the bat,” Maddon said. “I think he’s made a nice adjustment in the batter’s box…..A better bottom half. I thought he’s looked good the last couple of days.”"

After receiving a lot of attention at the beginning of the season for his hot start, Loney has seemingly faded to the background. Evan Longoria had been hitting with power and was looking like the perennial All-Star that the Rays have been accustomed to seeing. Then Wil Myers came up and began setting the baseball world on fire, looking like that second power bat that the Rays have needed in the lineup. Ben Zobrist was named to the All-Star team, and Loney appeared to have become somewhat forgotten.

Now, with the Rays in need of someone to step up and produce, James Loney is hitting once again. As it had been at the start of the year, this may be Loney’s time to shine.