Tampa Bay Rays Game 51: Steven Souza’s Power Surge Continues
By Robbie Knopf
The concern for any rookie in baseball, even the most talented of them, is that he will hit a wall and be unable to adjust. Souza entered the Tampa Bay Rays’ series with the Baltimore Orioles having managed just a .188/.297/.313 line in his previous 112 plate appearances and having taken over the major league lead in strikeouts. Did the Rays promote him too soon? Did they overestimate his talent when they dealt Wil Myers to get him? Much remains up in the air with regards to Souza’s future, but he is certainly reminding us of just how good he could become.
On Sunday afternoon, Souza homered for the third time in as many games, a three-run shot that gave the Rays a 6-2 lead in the fifth inning. He also contributed two doubles to cap a 3-for-5 afternoon. Souza’s power is massive, and the question will always be whether his plate approach is good enough that he can tap into it consistently. There is no guarantee that he can solve his strikeout problems. When he is feeling it, though, this is what can happen, and the goal is to get him on track in the batter’s box more often.
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The Rays’ scoring started in an unlikely way as Bobby Wilson delivered a two-out RBI single in the second inning and another run scored on an error. We haven’t seen much hitting at all from the Rays’ catchers, but it was great to see Wilson find a mistake pitch from Chris Tillman and give his team a boost. Logan Forsythe then drilled an RBI single ahead of Souza’s three-run blast. Finally, the Rays received insurance runs on a David DeJesus solo homer, an Evan Longoria sac fly, and a pinch-hit RBI single from Brandon Guyer that gave the Rays a 9-4 lead.
You know that several players are doing well when you come away with nine runs, and that was certainly true in this game. Beyond Souza, Joey Butler went 4 for 5 with 2 doubles as he has stayed red-hot. Always cool to see a 29-year-old rookie playing out of his mind and telling the Rays that they can’t take him out of the lineup. DeJesus also went 2 for 4 with his homer, a walk, and 2 runs scored while Logan Forsythe went 2 for 4 with a double, a walk, an RBI, and 2 runs scored. Both of them have been so critical to the Rays’ success this year.
On the pitching side, Jake Odorizzi allowed 2 runs in his first 6 innings, both on Delmon Young solo shots. He then allowed a Manny Machado two-run blast in the seventh when Cash gave him a chance to extend himself a little bit with a four-run lead. It obviously didn’t work out, but the goal is certainly to make Odorizzi capable of throwing 100+ pitches successfully, and this was a nice time to give him a little leeway. He finished with 6+ innings allowing 4 runs on 7 hits, striking out 6 while walking 2. The three homers were one more than he had allowed in his first 10 starts.
Steve Geltz had an extremely questionable outing behind Odorizzi, walking a batter and allowing a Young flyball to the track, before Jake McGee came in to clean things up. He struck out Chris Davis before getting Steve Pearce to ground out. McGee has rebounded well after that one rough outing against the Seattle Mariners. Ernesto Frieri then tossed a scoreless inning working around a hit before Xavier Cedeno came in for the ninth.
Kevin Cash and the Rays performed two experiments in this game, first keeping in Odorizzi to start the seventh and then bringing in Cedeno to face a trio of right-handed hitters. Cedeno allowed a Machado homer to make it a 9-5 game and a Young single while recording just one out. Jeff Beliveau proved himself capable of getting righties out last season, but the same does not appear to hold true against Cedeno. He then walked Davis on four pitches before Cash brought Brad Boxberger into a save situation with a four-run lead and the tying run on deck.
Boxberger was able to finish the game by forcing a Travis Snider groundout on a nice play by Jake Elmore and a J.J. Hardy flyball following a prolonged at-bat. The win takes the Tampa Bay Rays back over .500 at 26-25 and within a half-game of the Yankees in the AL East. Alex Colome will take on Garrett Richards as the Rays start a three-game set with the Los Angeles Angels of Anahiem at 10:05 PM EST. The Rays did a nice job coming back to win their series against the Orioles, and now they will hope to go on a more extended run.
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