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Tampa Bay Rays: News and Notes, Blown Leads, Offensive Leaders

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Apr 24, 2017; Baltimore, MD, USA; Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Corey Dickerson (right) hugs outfielder Steven Souza Jr. (left) after hitting a home run in the first inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 24, 2017; Baltimore, MD, USA; Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Corey Dickerson (right) hugs outfielder Steven Souza Jr. (left) after hitting a home run in the first inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports
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Despite being staked to early leads, the Tampa Bay Rays are finding ways to lose the lead and the game despite leading the American League in most offensive categories.

The latest snafu taking hold of the Tampa Bay Rays is their inability to hold onto leads as evident by Monday night’s 6-3 loss to the Baltimore Orioles and Sunday’s 6-4 loss to the Houston Astros. In both games, the Rays had leads after the first inning only to see it be washed out.

Blowing leads is coming at a very fast pace, as the Rays have blown a lead in each of their four losses and seven of their past eight losses, more so is the fact that in each game that they have scored in the first inning, they have gone onto lose those games where they are 0-4. On the flip side, the Rays have seven comeback wins.

While blowing leads is of concern, the Tampa Bay Rays are scoring lots of runs in the first three innings (52) they can’t figure out how do add runs later on, especially in the sixth through ninth innings when they are being outscored 45-28. One reason is that their starters are not going deep into the game, making way for the bullpen to take over.

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Courtesy of the Rays Media department, the Rays have outscored their opponents 25-10 in the first inning, 13-9 in the second, and 14-12 in the third. In the fourth and fifth innings, they are even. However, they are outscored 13-8 in the sixth, 14-8 in the seventh and 7-3 in the ninth and 2-1 in extra innings.

At 10-11, the Rays are 2.5 games back of the Baltimore Orioles, which may not be overly concerning at this point in the season; however, with their offensive production their record is not reflecting the success.  Entering Tuesday’s game again the Orioles, the Rays lead the American League with 96 runs scored – the most runs that they have scored through 21 games since the 2012 season when they had 98.  This is an increase of 35 percent over last year when they had scored only 71 runs through 21 games.

As well, the Rays lead the American League in hits (183), triples (6), total bases (303) and extra-base hits (64) and are ranked in the top five of the AL in average .256 (4th), .328 OBP (5th), .424 SLG (3rd ), .752 OPS (3rd ), 25 HR (4th) and a 85.7 SB pct. (12-for-14 – 2nd).

Despite their immense offense, and their 9-4 record at home, they are not doing on the road as shown by their 1-7 road record, which is the majors’ worst and enter their game against Baltimore on Tuesday with four straight road losses.

On the road the Rays, hitting line stands at .217/.289/.390 but at home, the line is .279/.351/.444. Strangely enough, the starting five pitchers have pitched better on the road with a 3.48 ERA (41.1-IP, 16-ER) compared to a 4.20 ERA (75-IP, 35-ER) at the Trop. However, the bullpen has done much better at the Trop 2.20 ERA (45-IP, 11-ER) than on the road where they sit at 6.84 ERA (23.2-IP, 18-ER).

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Overall, at Tropicana Field the Rays are tied for first in wins (9), and are tops in hits (125), runs (67), triples (4), RBIs (63) and stolen bases (11).

What a turn-around for Steven Souza Jr. as he is finally showing why the Rays wanted him as part of the Wil Myers deal back in 2014. Souza Jr. is tied for the RBI lead in the AL with 17 and in hits with 26. As well, he leads the majors with seven multi-RBI games and ranks among the AL leaders with a .333 average (6th), .416 OBP (T-6th), .590 SLG (T-7th), 1.005 OPS (4th), 8 multi-hit games (T-3rd), 14 runs (T-2nd), 46 TB (T-3rd), 6-2B (T-5th) and 11-XBH (T-5th). He ranks second with a .500 average with runners in scoring position.

There are five games left in the month, and his RBIs right now are the most since 2013 when Ben Zobrist had 19. If he stays on track, there is a chance that Souza Jr. can match the 25 RBIs set by Zobrist in April 2011.

Tim Beckham is making the most of his opportunity at shortstop offensively and defensively. After a slow start offensively, Beckham is heating up at the plate. He will enter Tuesday’s game riding a five-game hitting streak and since April 16 (nine games) Beckham is hitting .353 (12-for-34), which has pushed his average up to .258 from a low .156. Defensively, the Rays could not have asked for any better as he ranks third among AL shortstops with a .988 fielding percentage (one error in 82 chances), trailing only Ronald Torreyes (1.000) of the Yankees and the Royals Alcides Escobar (.989).

In Monday night’s opening game against the Orioles, Corey Dickerson made it into the Tampa Bay Rays record book with his third leadoff home run becoming the quickest to do so and when he hits a fourth it will be the most in a season since 2006 when current first base coach Rocco Baldelli hit a club record five.

In addition, Dickerson is tied for the AL lead in multi-hit games (9) with Mike Trout, plus he has added seven extra-base hits in his last seven games. However, the biggest change is that he leads all AL hitters with a .477 average against left-handed pitching, not bad for someone that entered the season with a .244 career average against southpaws.

Souza Jr. (1.005) and Dickerson (1.002) are the only AL teammates with a 1.000 OPS or better, and they have also combined for 93 total bases (Dickerson 47, Souza 46), most of any AL teammates ahead of Mike Trout (53) and Andrelton Simmons (33) of the Los Angeles Angels who have combined for 86.

Next: Rays Call Up Top Prospect Chih-Wei Hu

One final thought on Souza Jr. – after completing a week in which he had 12 hits, five extra-base hits and nine RBIs, Souza Jr.  won the AL Player of the Week Award. He became the 39th Ray to win the award and the first since last June when Evan Longoria took home the honors.

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