Tampa Bay Rays: Thoughts From Friday’s Games

By Robbie Knopf

I was busy for once, so I didn’t get anything up on the Tampa Bay Rays major or minor leagues games from yesterday. Here are just a few things that came to mind for me if you want something to read as you watch tonight’s Rays game (which, of course, was off to a horrific start before the Rays started rallying back).

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Yesterday’s Rays-Mets game was a classic, but unfortunately, it was a classic from the Mets’ perspective. The Rays did so many things right. Jake Odorizzi flashed his pre-DL form as he out-dueled Jacob deGrom, and Grady Sizemore, James Loney, and Evan Longoria all hit solo home runs. Longoria’s homer was especially exhilarating–it gave the Rays a 3-2 lead entering the ninth and was the latest high point on Longoria’s hot streak. Everyone was talking about how much Longoria was struggling, how he couldn’t turn around fastballs like he used to. Now everything is changing.

Longoria is now up to a .281/.349/.443 line on the season entering today’s game, amounting to a 121 OPS+ compared to just 107 last season. His career mark is 130–suddenly he is right within the range of normal for his career. Of course, we will have to see where Longoria finishes as looking at anybody’s numbers at the peak of their best hot streak is an exercise in futility. No matter what, though, it is great to see that he still has a stretch like this in him, and there remains plenty of optimism regarding his future. The Rays retain belief that he can regain his previous form for a few more years.

Brad Boxberger is obviously struggling, and even Jake McGee gave up a homer yesterday. Bullpen struggles drive you crazy because even if your starters are great and your offense is providing enough, a late-inning meltdown can ruin everything. The hope with this team always has to be that if the offense is scoring, you are going to win a lot of games. Boxberger needs to find himself again to help ensure that the improved run support will matter.

On the minor league side, Matt Moore had his first legitimately great outing at any level this season. He tossed 6 innings allowing just 1 run on 2 hits, striking out 7 while walking just 1. Those numbers don’t mean a lot, but it’s nice to see that he didn’t lose confidence after his demotion and was able to get some good feeling back. If he keeps pitching something like this and the Rays are seeing the improved command and control that can make his performance last, there is no question that the team will make room for him in its rotation again.

The Tampa Bay Rays were down 3-0 when I started this, and now it’s 4-3. Kevin Kiermaier got hurt, but then he was able to stay in the game. The rest of today should be fun.

Next: Tampa Bay Rays: Asdrubal Cabrera Suddenly Exceeding Expectations